An American Horror Story

Stephen King asks how much is enough, but it's not a numbers game for the MAGA crowd.

Today, author Stephen King had this to say about the US COVID-19 death count:

I think it’s a mistake to think there is any number that will move Trump’s base as a whole. Among the reasons I think that is that they have used the same rebuttals this whole time even as the number goes up: “now do car crashes” or “more people died of the flu last year and we didn’t shut the world down” or similar things, along with claiming that the number is fake and inflated and also way lower than it would have been without the supreme leadership of their supreme leader.

The exact same people who believed Trump when he said it was 15 cases and would soon be zero also celebrated when he announced we would hold fatalities to 60,000 by August andt hat was pretty good and then kept the faith when he was talking about a hundred thousand or so, which we’re going to hit soon with no sign of stopping.

Whatever the number winds up being, the answer is going to be: wow, we’re lucky Trump was in charge or else it would have been times that.

And some of them will mean every word, but I think we need to remember that for a lot of Trumpers, the cruelty really is the point.

During the government shutdown in January or 2019, a disappointed Trump voter sort of famously told a reporter, “He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.

If Trump had managed to shut off government money to a mythically homogeneous Blue State so that they lost essential services and people’s lives were upended and livelihoods lost, she and her ilk would have been happy. Thrilled! That’s the kind of thing he ran on, after all.

That was the core promise of Trump’s campaign, behind all the specific pledges and the rhetoric and the boasts: I will hurt your enemies. I will hurt the people you hate. I will lift you up by driving everyone else down into the dirt.

But his inability to make one of his famous (and equally mythical) deals and keep the government running was hurting everybody across the board. That’s not what she had signed up with!

The virus doesn’t discriminate, exactly, but neither is it universally nor uniformly distributed. The early US outbreaks that grabbed the headlines and set the narrative in Trumpland were in places like the D.C. area, the Pacific Northwest, and of course, California and New York.

And for every story of a Trump supporter who believed him that the whole thing is an overblown hoax right up until they got sick themselves, there’s a whole lot more people who haven’t been slapped in the face by reality, and that imbalance is likely to remain unless and until things get really bad… even in the worst of the worst case scenarios, there will always be more people who don’t have it or didn’t get sick from it than people who did develop COVID-19.

Even things do get worse, though, we will very likely reach a point where more people personally know someone who died or had a bad illness with a lengthy recovery than not. That—personal experience, or hearing it from someone they know and trust—is what has the power to turn members of Trump’s base.

Not facts. Not figures. The experts who stand beside Trump are credible only to the extent that they’re echoing what Trump says. Sometimes the same person is a Deep State agent (or leader) one day and a Trump loyalist the next, back and forth based on whether they’re saying the things that the listener wants to hear.

There’s only one number that can change the mind of a Trump voter, and it’s the only number they’ve ever cared about: Number One, as in “I have to look out for Number One.”