“If you take the blue states out, we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at. We’re really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue-state-managed.”
It’s an amazing admission to hear from the President of the United States. And the latest sign that Trump really doesn’t view himself as the President of the entire country. Instead, he sees himself as President of the people who voted for him only.
It’s a remarkable reversal from the way in which past presidents conceived of the presidency. Consider these words from then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and how far, in the wrong direction, we have gone since then:
“The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.
“We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?”
That was 16 years ago. On Wednesday, we had a President of the United States say that if you take out the people who died in state that didn’t vote for him, then not that many people have actually died from the coronavirus.
What’s more, Trump isn’t even completely accurate in his claim about the deaths in red versus blue states.
It is true that, in terms of raw numbers, two states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 lead the way in deaths from coronavirus: New York (33,042 deaths) and New Jersey 16,054). But those are also two of the most densely populated states in the country. So looking solely at the raw numbers of deaths from Covid-19 in them doesn’t present an accurate picture of where the virus has been the most deadly.
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The best way to understand which states have been hit hardest by the coronavirus is actually to look at the numbers of deaths per 100,000 residents — since that measure factors in how many people live in a state and allows a more apples-to-apples comparison. Of the 10 states with the highest number of deaths per 100,000 people, nine are states Trump won in 2016. (Nevada, the 10th state on that list, is the lone exception.)
As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted in a piece on Wednesday night:
“The most recent data, through Tuesday, indicates that about 53 percent of deaths have occurred in blue states — meaning that 47 percent have occurred in red ones.
“In other words, more than 90,000 deaths have occurred in red states. If that were the country’s total, we would have seen the second-most number of deaths globally, trailing only Brazil. The United States would still be responsible for 11 percent of global deaths, despite constituting only about 4 percent of the world’s population.
“Why has the ratio of blue-state to red-state deaths shifted? Because most of the newly occurring deaths are happening in red states. Since mid-June, a majority of the new coronavirus deaths each day have occurred in red states. Since mid-July at least 70 percent have.”
Focusing on how the numbers don’t bear out Trump’s blaming of blue states for the high death toll in the United States from Covid-19 actually takes away from the real point here, though.
And the real point is this: We have a man in the White House who doesn’t understand — or care — that he wasn’t elected president only to represent and fight for the people who cast a ballot for him in 2016 or will do so in 2020.
Because of that, Trump has spent his three-plus years in office seeking to highlight what divides us rather than what unites us. Rather than call to our common humanity — particularly in the face of the worst public health crisis in a century and racial protests and national unrest that we haven’t seen in decades — Trump has sought to weaponize our differences for his political gain. He has worked to convince people in red states that those in blue states don’t just disagree with them on the right policies to move the country forward but are actively working to destroy any semblance of the America they hold dear.
What Trump’s view misses is that the coronavirus is a disease that doesn’t see your party or who you voted for in 2016. It kills Democrats and Republicans alike.
It should be the ultimate argument against the idea that we are a collection of red states and blue states. It should remind us that only by realizing we are all in this together can we win the fight against a virus that is projected to kill more than 400,000 Americans by January 1, 2021. Not red-state voters. Or blue-state voters. Americans.