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Trump’s unspoken factor on reopening the economy: Politics – POLITICO




President Donald Trump and his aides aren’t just weighing coronavirus infection rates as they push for a quick economic restart. They think it’s good politics, too.

Trump aides and allies say they are growing confident that an earlier restart amid the coronavirus pandemic could help the president in his reelection campaign, according to six people close to the White House or Trump campaign.

They point to emerging signs around the country. Trump-supported activists are protesting strict stay-at-home orders. Conservative groups’ internal polling in red-leaning and swing states show a significant uptick in Americans who favor reopening the country. A growing chorus of Republican lawmakers across the nation are on board.

“If you don’t see something start to happen … you’re going to see a conservative revolt by our base,” said Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, a conservative group which recently polled on reopening the economy. “The worst strategy for him is to keep things shut until August. Trump is basically going to win or lose his election right now, in the next month.”

A swift economic restart, however, could backfire politically for Trump if it causes a flare up. Public health experts caution that the country currently lacks the robust testing capacity needed to relax social-distancing guidelines, and cases in many states have yet to peak.

But Trump allies are seizing on positive signs in numerous coronavirus hot spots, including a decrease in death rates in New York and indications that early social distancing flattened the spike of cases in California. And they’re telling the president to kickstart the economy — now.

“The facts on the ground increasingly suggest a marked turn toward lower health risks, even in New York,” according to a Republican who talks to Trump. “I strongly urged the president personally to expedite the badly needed reopening of our country.”

Hanging over the health data, however, is the politics of the situation. And many of Trump’s political allies and outside advisers believe they have the public increasingly on their side.

Conservative groups have noticed a change in polling in recent weeks when they ask respondents if they want to go back to work, even if they know the outbreak could continue to cause infections or deaths, and if they would be willing to wear protective gear, such as masks and gloves, in order to reopen the country. Some polls saw upticks as large as 20 percentage points of people willing to return to work, even with the caveats, according to said Brandon and others familiar with the polls. The FreedomWorks polling was conducted in suburban House districts in battleground states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

The issue also has become partisan. Those identifying as conservative largely side with Trump’s economic advisers worried about the ongoing harm to the country’s finances and favor a quicker economic restart, while those identifying as liberal largely side with public health officials and urge longer timelines.

“Trump, himself, feels pretty good about the polling in his direction,” said a Republican familiar with the White House’s deliberations. “It’s a winner for Trump if it becomes a partisan issue.”

The hot spots for coronavirus so far have largely been blue states on the East and West Coasts, but public health officials say it is now spreading to swing states, including Florida and Michigan, and red states, including Indiana, Georgia and Louisiana. The virus is also predicted to hit blue-leaning states like Illinois, Colorado, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, as well as Washington, D.C.

After talking for weeks about reopening the country, first by mid-April and then by May 1, Trump released guidelines Thursday designed to gradually ease social distancing in three phases after regions meet certain criteria, including a downward trajectory of cases and an aggressive testing program.

“We’re opening up our country,” Trump announced Thursday at a news conference. “And we have to do that. America wants to be open, and Americans want to be open.”

The next day, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, whose approach Trump has praised, announced new deadlines to relax some restrictions on parks and retailers.

It’s a high-wire act for the president. If the economy begins to recover with minimal additional infections, the president will take credit. But if infections spread or a second shut down is needed, he could be blamed. As a result, at least one person who speaks to Trump has urged him to not consider politics when it comes to lifting economic restrictions.

The Trump campaign declined to comment. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Less than seven months before the November election, Trump’s campaign has been completely transformed by the pandemic.

In a matter of weeks, Trump lost his central pitch for reelection — a strong economy and record stock market. And Democrats began hammering his handling of the coronavirus, including a failure to publicly acknowledge the seriousness of the outbreak and quickly distribute tests and medical supplies to states.

“We’re going to hold him accountable,” said former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is advising likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign. “He failed in the time of need for our country.”

Thus far, the coronavirus has taken more than than 30,000 lives in the U.S., with more than 675,000 reported infections. While initial hot spots appear to have peaked, other locations are still weeks away from their own infection high points.

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and conservative groups are defending the president’s handling of the pandemic through rapid-response emails to reporters, text messages to supporters and social media messages.

“President Trump continues to lead our nation through these trying times and voters know that it is his leadership that will once again restore our country and economy to greatness once this crisis passes,” said RNC national press secretary Mandi Merritt.

Trump received a small bump in his approval ratings after the coronavirus first hit but more recently multiple polls have shown more Americans say he isn’t doing enough to combat the outbreak.

But Republicans are counting on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus to be less important in November than how he restored the economy and helped the record 22 million Americans who have filed for unemployment in recent weeks.

“Trump’s electoral future is on the line, so he’s obviously focused on that challenge,” said Dan Eberhart, a major Republican donor and CEO of the drilling services company Canary, LLC who is in touch with the White House.

The Trump campaign and the RNC, which have shifted all campaign events online, held their first series of calls with donors since the outbreak to provide campaign updates from people, including Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, according to two people familiar with the calls.

And in a recent call with surrogates, campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh explained that the president is on two tracks — protecting the health of Americans and safeguarding the economy, according to a person on the call. Trump campaign officials also referenced internal polling on Trump’s job approval on coronavirus on the call.

“The president knows America is not meant to be shut down for months at a time and go dormant for three, four, six, nine months,” Murtaugh said on call. “That’s why he wants to get this country moving again and moving quickly as possible but only when and where it is safe.”

Across the nation, demonstrators have held protests in at least six states — Ohio, North Carolina, Kentucky, Utah, Virginia and Michigan — to object to state stay-at-home orders and school and business closures. More are expected.

“Virginia can’t go on like this,” Senate Republican leaders wrote to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, on Wednesday. “For the sake of our state’s economy and the quality of life of all Virginians, we need to prepare for a safely ‘Reopened Virginia’ as soon as possible.”

Trump said Thursday that the protesters share an affinity for him. “I think they listen to me,” he said. “They seem to be protesters that like me.” The next day in a series of tweets, he issued an online call to “LIBERATE” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia — all states with Democratic governors.

“I don’t think anyone should play games with that and we can’t afford to play politics here,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who instituted strictest stay-at-home policies in the nation, said in an interview earlier this week. “We have to remember that the enemy is not one another, the enemy is the virus.”

But conservative groups say polling shows Trump has public support for such moves.

“Numbers that I’m seeing show there’s a steady movement toward the idea that the pandemic is slowly coming under control and it’s time to begin accelerating efforts to reopen the economy in a responsible way,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, the flagship nonprofit of Charles Koch’s political network.

David McIntosh, president of Club for Growth, a national network of 250,000 pro-growth, limited government Americans, found that likely voters, by a 2-to-1 margin, want Trump to slash regulations for businesses to boost the economy after it is restarted.

The president, McIntosh said, should show voters that he will “lift the burden on employers so they can hire people and they can quickly get back to work.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally, said the president’s reelection is now solely about continuing to combat the virus and opening the county successfully.

“If those things happen, he’ll win reelection,” Gingrich said. “The only candidate he has to run against is Donald Trump.”

Gabby Orr contributed to this report.

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Unmasking the racial politics of the coronavirus pandemic – The Conversation CA



Recently, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that along with physical distancing, wearing protective masks slows the spread of COVID-19. Canada has made a similar announcement.

Over 50 countries now mandate wearing masks in public.

While primarily a protective measure, the COVID-19 mask has also become a cultural icon. In western nations it has become a marker of social responsibility and good citizenship. It represents the wearer’s compliance with public safety and communal well being through exercising care for one’s self and others.

During the 2003 SARS crisis, “mask culture” was seen as fostering a sense of mutual obligation and civic duty. Similarly in our current pandemic, wearing a protective mask signifies a commitment to the social and collective good of society.

But how does that perception change when a face mask is worn by someone who is Asian? Or a Black man? Why do some jurisdictions outlaw the face veil or niqab worn by some Muslim women while mandating protective masks?

Whiteness and unearned privilege

Through European colonialism whiteness became the standard against which all other bodies are marked, judged and codified. American anti-racism educator Peggy MacIntosh argues that whiteness provides an “invisible knapsack” of unearned privileges that white people can often take for granted.

Masks can be seen as a sign of good civic duty.
(Bára Buri/Unsplash)

These are basic things like: going shopping and not be followed or harassed; never being asked to speak for all white people; and not having to educate one’s children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.

The concept of white privilege can be related to how COVID-19 mask-wearing is seen differently when worn on racialized bodies.

Yellow Peril

For more than 100 years, Asians in North America have been represented as diseased foreigners and more recently blamed as “pandemic starters.”

Rather than exemplifying a commitment to the public good, an abundance of pictures of Asian individuals wearing masks may have accelerated the circulation of derogatory stereotypes. Research has shown Canadian press photos related to the 2003 SARS crisis used Asians wearing masks as a dominant image. With COVID 19, the trend of using masked Asian faces as the emblem of the crisis continues the trajectory of these racist depictions.

Research shows the Canadian Press over-represented Asians in masks during SARS.
(Jeremy Stenuit/Unsplash)

Instead of representing a good citizen helping to stop the spread of a possible contagion, a protective mask transforms Asian bodies into the source of contagion. Trump’s insistence in referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” dangerously reinforced the racializing of this disease.

Read more:
Anti-Asian racism during coronavirus: How the language of disease produces hate and violence

Anti-Asian hate crimes including physical and verbal assaults and vandalism have escalated along with the pandemic.

A recent report told a story of a woman in British Columbia who was accosted by two white men who yelled at her and her mother: “Look at you with your masks, you’re what’s wrong with society.”

The risk of such attacks and harassment confronts Asian diasporas with a difficult choice: wear a mask and risk being subjected to violence or do not and bear the risk of contracting the virus.

Mask-wearing while Black

A Black physician in Boston wrote about his internal struggle with wearing a mask in public because of the racist fears it evokes. He said: “I wonder whether someone would call the police on me, a ‘suspicious’ Black man in a face mask. I negotiate with myself whether risking my life is worth a $300 fine.”

He has reason to worry. A Black doctor in Miami wearing a surgical mask was handcuffed outside his home by police.

A Black doctor in Miami wearing a surgical mask was handcuffed outside his home.

The killings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd in the United States are tragic events that reveal the very real dangers Black people face on a daily basis. And yet in early May, heavily armed, white protesters stormed the Michigan State capitol without incident.

A campaign spearheaded by a Black clergy in Illinois in co-operation with local police, called “Tipping the Mask,” asked people to show shopkeepers their faces when entering stores to mitigate against potential racial fears and violence.

A Black pastor recommended that his son put on his mask once he is already in the store for “fear of what others might think when they see a Black man in a mask.”

The concept of “mask tipping” calls upon racialized bodies to reveal themselves as “safe” and in return avoid biases and endangerment.

Islamophobia and government hypocrisy

Québec Premier François Legault after removing his mask.
Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

In Québec, Bill 21, which outlaws religious symbols in public, leaves Muslim women who wear a niqab in breach of the law and denied access to social services, despite government requests for public face coverings due to the pandemic.

France also mandates wearing masks but has not lifted its ban on the niqab. Fatima Khemilat, a researcher in France exposes the irony.

“If you are Muslim and you hide your face for religious reasons, you are liable to a fine and a citizenship course where you will be taught what it is to be a good citizen …. But if you are a non-Muslim citizen in the pandemic, you are encouraged and forced as a ‘good citizen’ to adopt ‘barrier gestures’ to protect the national community.”

Muslim women who wear a niqab are not considered good liberal citizens because their covered faces are deemed culturally irreconcilable with western society. They face being penalized for violating the law while those wearing COVID-19 masks are seen as good citizens upholding the public good.

The COVID-19 mask is a barrier to transmission of the virus while the niqab is a barrier to social inclusion.

Not having to think about how one’s body is read by others when wearing a mask is a privilege of whiteness that eludes racialized groups. White mask privilege includes: not having to bear the racial stigma of being seen as a foreign disease carrier, being safe whether or not you “tip your mask,” having the ability to cover your face in public and not be denied social services.

Rather than serving as a levelling device the cultural politics behind wearing masks exposes the racial fault lines of the pandemic.

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Biden Is the Politician America Needs Right Now – The Atlantic



Getty / The Atlantic

When Joe Biden entered this presidential race, he was flayed as an ally of segregation. Kamala Harris chided him for his defense of busing. His opponents roundly portrayed him as an architect of mass incarceration and an apologist for Strom Thurmond—as a clubbable senator not particularly bothered about the moral character of the backs he slapped.

These attacks were leveled not to suggest that Biden was a racial revanchist, but to reinforce a widely shared criticism of the man: He is not a visionary, but a malleable politician, with a barometrically attuned sense of the good.

But in Philadelphia yesterday, Biden delivered perhaps the most thorough-going and hard-hitting critique of American racial inequities ever uttered by a major presidential nominee. Certainly, no nominee has ever proposed such a robust agenda for curbing the abusiveness of police, and with such little rhetorical hedging.

In the face of upheaval, he’s given reason to hope that the traits that were his supposed weaknesses could prove to be his great strengths. If one of the ultimate purposes of protest is to push politicians, he’s shown himself a politician willing to be pushed. His tendency to channel the zeitgeist has supplied him with the potential to meet a very difficult moment.

One of the alleged truisms about older people is that they are cemented into ideological place. Their minds are said to have limited ability to switch political lanes. But in the past few months, Biden has altered his worldview. At the beginning of his candidacy, he announced himself as the tribune of normalcy. Donald Trump was a pathogen that had attacked the American host—and Biden would provide the cleansing presence that would permit a reversion to a pre-Charlottesville status quo.

What was so striking about his speech in Philadelphia was that it acknowledged that he had gotten it wrong. The country couldn’t return to a prelapsarian state of tolerance, because one didn’t exist. “I wish I could say that hate began with Donald Trump and will end with him. It didn’t and it won’t. American history isn’t a fairy tale with a guaranteed happy ending.” Faith in progress is the nostrum of liberal politics, yet Biden broke with that faith in Philadelphia, and by so doing, he seemed to concede his own failure to appreciate the depths of American racism.

Since the beginning of quarantine, Biden has been chided for disappearing from view—and he receives strangely little media attention when he does rear his head. Over the past few days, for example, he’s treated the protests with deference, something cable news has largely ignored. When he met with activists who berated the Obama administration’s record on race, he didn’t react defensively. Instead, he studiously took notes. The relatively few images that circulate show him engaged in the empathetic poses that so often seem overwrought, but that also project openness and respect. In a church in Wilmington, Delaware, he dropped to his knee, a position obviously reminiscent of Colin Kaepernick but also a stance of self-abasement in the face of awe-inspiring anger.

So much American history has transpired since early February, it’s easy to forget that Biden’s candidacy was salvaged in the South Carolina primary. In the aftermath of that victory, he spoke about the debt he owed to black voters. There’s a chance that this was, to borrow a phrase, malarky. But in the former vice president’s antiquated style, where one’s word is supposed to be stronger than oak, this debt has already guided him to stake his candidacy on a clear statement of solidarity with the protests.

More than other figures in the Democratic Party, Biden can speak warmly about the protesters without risking political backlash. With his gaffes, which sometimes veer toward the politically incorrect, he’s hardly an easily caricatured avatar of wokeness. His penchant for cringeworthy remarks, and his old-time mannerisms, help cushion whatever anxiety some white voters might have about his tough criticisms of police and blunt condemnations of systemic racism.

On Monday, George Floyd’s brother spontaneously addressed a crowd at the site of his brother’s killing, clutching a bullhorn. Through his mourning, he tried to guide the shape of the protest movement that had risen in his brother’s name. He pleaded, “Educate yourself and know who you vote for. That’s how you’re going to get it. It’s a lot of us. Do this peacefully.”

It was as if he were distilling a body of political-science research that has shown why so many protest movements around the globe have fizzled out these past decades. Social media permit the quick gathering of crowds, but without the organizational infrastructure or robust agenda that can sustain a true movement. Terrence Floyd was urging something different: He wanted the crowds in the streets to think politically.

The challenge for the Biden candidacy is to bridge an alliance with a resurgent left. Biden, a creature of the Senate, has to convince young people rushing to the barricades that he’s worth a trip to the polls. And the challenge for the left is to accept that Biden is its greatest chance of achieving its long-held dreams. What he’s demonstrated over the past week is a willingness to play the role of tribune, to let the moment carry him to a new place.

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Franklin Foer is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author of World Without Mind and How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization.

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US Floyd killing also rocks British politics – Anadolu Agency




UK politicians on Wednesday condemned the killing of George Floyd, whose death at the hands of US police sparked protests across the country and the world, but the government was also grilled on taking a firm stand against police brutality.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, a weekly British parliamentary tradition where the prime minister takes questions from the leader of the opposition and MPs as a whole, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer opened his line of questioning with the situation in America.

Starmer said that he was “shocked” by the death of George Floyd. In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he condemned what happened to George Floyd, but that people should protest peacefully.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tweeted: “Absolutely correct that @Keir_Starmer opens up #PMQs about the death of #GeorgeFloyd asking the PM what his position was on that horrendous event and the subsequent demonstrations #BlackLivesMattter”.

Ian Blackford, the leader at Westminster of the Scottish National Party (SNP), asked Johnson what he told President Donald Trump about the killing. He also asked Johnson if he could say “black lives matter.”

Johnson said: “Of course black lives matter”, but added that protests must be peaceful.

Blackford noted that Johnson did not disclose what he told Trump, and then pressed the prime minister on whether the UK will review the export of riot gear to the US.

Johnson said he was happy to look into the matter but that British exports are covered by the most scrupulous guidance in the world.

On Wednesday, Emily Thornberry, the shadow international trade secretary, called on the UK to suspend the sale of riot equipment to the US, and review whether British-made riot gear was being used against protesters in America.

The Labour MP wrote a letter to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, which said: “If this were any other leader, in any other country in the world, the suspension of any such exports is the least we could expect from the British government in response to their actions, and our historic alliance with the US is no reason to shirk that responsibility now.”

“The British public deserve to know how arms exported by this country are being used across the world and the American public deserve the right to protest peacefully without the threat of violent repression,” she added.

Last Sunday, British Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrators filled Trafalgar Square in protests at the killing of George Floyd.

BLM protesters have called for further demonstrations in London: Hyde Park on June 3, Parliament Square on June 6, and the US Embassy on June 7.

The US has seen protests since last week when a video went viral showing Floyd being pinned down by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as he was being arrested.

Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Shortly after, Floyd appeared to lose consciousness, but Chauvin maintained his position on the victim.

He died shortly after being taken to a hospital.

His last words were “I can’t breathe,” which became the slogan of the nationwide protests.

Floyd was killed by “asphyxiation from sustained pressure,” an independent autopsy found Monday.

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.

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