Fitting Ideology and Virus

Terry Schwadron
4 min readMar 22, 2020


Terry H. Schwadron

March 22, 2020

Daily, it’s becoming obvious that our government leaders are having trouble fitting their perceived ideologies into the practical needs of a country being ordered, voluntarily or not, to conform with a world in lockdown while under siege from coronavirus.

Worse, we’re seeing that these same leaders confuse their own personal fate with that of the country at large.

So, the same leaders who denounce “socialism” are busily preparing to send four-digit checks to millions of Americans. The leaders who spend their days undercutting the nation’s health system now proclaim that we should be seeing health for all, maybe.

Donald Trump is all but banning any public questions or comments that don’t start with obsequious praise about tremendous work by him. Though he has declared himself a “wartime” president — even boastfully rewrites recent history to make himself look decisive and caring — he has dragged his feet about equipping the front-line troops in our public health and hospital fronts with what they say they need.

We are seeing some senators who speak for making The American People whole from economic upturning are making sure their own stock portfolios are taken care of without the losses that the rest of the country is seeing. And we’re still hearing from selected Republican senators who think the effects are being overly hyped by the big, bad news media.

Let’s agree that the virus has shoved our society into wildly incongruous political balancing acts. The questions seem to create choices that are apples and oranges: We can lock ourselves down to worry about virus spread or we can let Wall Street run wild with no need to slow down trades in the name of emergency. We can worry about helping public health or the economy. We can help individuals who are hurt by lockdowns or help companies, who may or may not help individuals. We can attend to civil liberties and democratic choices about how we live or move towards martial order to preserve lives.

We’re not alone, of course. Other countries are modeling different versions of such questions, making street arrests of anyone who pokes outside or using government spyware to track phones of infected citizens.


Our leaders are tied to their ideologies and personal politics even as they declare actions in the name of whatever public good measure is on the table. As a result, we are losing whatever remains of trust in our institutions, because we are having trouble distinguishing which statements are for public welfare and which are to promote longtime partisan political goals.

Ideology is popping up all over, even as we hear small government advocates talking about pumping bigtime government dollars into the economy. The questions hang on the how of aid rather than on whether there is a role here for government. Senate Republicans, for example, went into private session this week to produce a mammoth bill that offers small business loans and bailouts for the airlines, but which is less generous about help for the quickly soaring number of jobless claims. While there are proposed checks for individuals, they are on a scale that will not match unchanging rent. In the end, the Republican proposal gives more to companies than the poor — an ideological choice.

The very people who had opposed earlier bailouts for autos or banks are now lining up behind cash and loan guarantees for the airlines, but not for restaurants. The distinctions are hard to come by as to why some industries are considered important employers — cruise industry anyone? — while arts organizations, nonprofits, bars, universities are not. It seems political, no?

Trump himself has enabled wartime powers to tell industry to make more ventilators, but then he does not act on the issue, preferring to defer to the marketplace, which apparently is lining up at the prospect of lucrative government-paid contracts. According to a report by ProPublica, Florida has gotten everything it has asked from the federal government while California, New York and Washington State are left begging.

This is a time, as Sen. Bernie Sanders would be the first to note, that calls for health care for all, whatever form it may take, and not a government that still is involved at undercutting the current health system. This is a government that finds that it must fit a speeded Federal Drug Administration review of whatever emerges as coronavirus treatment or vaccine into a context of deregulation rather than treating it as an exception being overseen closely by scientists. This administration has made clear that it was much more concerned with patient co-pays for already insured people for testing than for the 20 million with no insurance.

The closing of borders has worked as part of an isolation campaign against virus spread, of course, but the way it is being done, with the closing of immigration courts on the Southern border and immediately deporting asylum seekers, seems to reflect as much the Trump anti-immigration policies that he has long pursued. The constant references to “Chinese virus” is keeping alive the belief that Trump is a racist as well as a nationalist.


Trump and his campaign people reportedly have been surprised not only by the arrival of a disease that spreads as much fear and uncertainty as it does infection. They have been forced to deal with the actual machinery of government, well beyond the pomp and ritual that they expected. They are battling a daily fight for hearts and minds to accept their actual leadership right now.

Meanwhile, across the aisle, they are seeing Democratic candidate Joe Biden start to shine as a desirable public managerial alternative, and the re-emergence of trust for the scientists and experts that they had banned from government.

We’ll believe a dropping of ideology and politics when we see it.

In the meantime, let’s solve some practical problem like getting people’s rent paid at the start of the month.




Terry Schwadron

Journalist, musician, community volunteer