Even dur­ing coro­n­avirus cri­sis, Repub­li­cans don’t run out of scape­goats, do they?

Miami Herald (Sunday) - - OPINION - BY LEONARD PITTS JR. [email protected]­ami­her­ald.com

Viruses do not carry pass­ports.

Nor do they have birth cer­tifi­cates or other mark­ers of cit­i­zen­ship. So the in­sis­tence of Don­ald Trump and other Repub­li­cans upon iden­ti­fy­ing the coro­n­avirus that has sick­ened and killed peo­ple all over the world as a “Chi­nese virus” (as Trump has done on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions) or a “for­eign virus,” (as he did in his widely panned Oval Of­fice speech) is non­sen­si­cal on its face.

Or at least it is un­til you re­mem­ber that the GOP is a hate group — and Trump its grand wiz­ard.

The in­ten­tion­ally ig­no­rant will dis­pute that racism un­der­lies Trump’s words. They will note that the pan­demic did, in­deed, orig­i­nate in Wuhan, China (which ini­tially tried to cover up the out­break) and that it is not un­prece­dented to name a dis­ease for its birth­place. For ex­am­ple, the Ebola virus takes its name from a river near the vil­lage in Congo where the dis­ease was first iden­ti­fied.

That ex­pla­na­tion will sat­isfy some. The rest of us will re­mem­ber that Trump leads the party of “send her back “and “very fine peo­ple on both sides,” of “dis­gust­ing” Amer­i­can ci­ties and

“shit­hole coun­tries.” The rest of us will note that the med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment has des­ig­nated the ill­ness COVID-19, an acro­nym for coro­n­avirus dis­ease, 2019, and that Trump and his en­ablers are vir­tu­ally the only ones who’ve made a point of call­ing it some­thing else.

And we will con­clude that this is, in­deed, an ap­peal to the worst in hu­man na­ture.

If you still doubt it, con­sider Tues­day’s tweet from CBS re­porter Wei­jia Jiang: “This morn­ing a White House of­fi­cial re­ferred to #coro­n­avirus as the ‘KungFlu’ to my face. Makes me won­der what they’re call­ing it be­hind my back.”

Or con­sider Wed­nes­day’s state­ment from Sen. John Cornyn: “China is to blame be­cause the cul­ture where peo­ple eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that.” For the record, Cornyn is from Texas, where they are known to con­sider rat­tlesnake nuggets and bull tes­ti­cles quite the del­i­cacy.

So there’s noth­ing here to doubt. We’re deal­ing with Repub­li­can big­otry. Again.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that hate crimes rose sharply after Trump came to of­fice on an im­plicit prom­ise to

Make Ha­tred Great Again. Now we’re see­ing re­ports of Asian peo­ple ver­bally and phys­i­cally as­saulted around the coun­try.

The GOP has been the party of white griev­ance for more than 50 years, and ap­peals to big­otry have been its go-to move. Why would they aban­don that play­book now? After all, ev­ery mo­ment spent de­bat­ing “Chi­nese virus” is a mo­ment not spent talk­ing about Trump’s lag­gard re­sponse to a global cri­sis, his mul­ti­tude of lies, the lack of test­ing sup­plies and num­bers that keep tick­ing omi­nously up­ward.

Will the diver­sion work? Or, will so ob­vi­ous and mon­u­men­tal a fail­ure fi­nally prove to be a bridge too far? Well, for years, we’ve seen Repub­li­cans pri­or­i­tize their big­otry above logic, faith, de­cency, the Con­sti­tu­tion and their own fi­nan­cial well-be­ing. It would be dis­ap­point­ing, but hardly a shock, to see them pri­or­i­tize it above their health and lives.

Crises re­veal char­ac­ter. What is re­vealed here is base and shame­ful — and all too pre­dictable.

Once again, the GOP draws lines of dif­fer­ence and dis­crim­i­na­tion in ac­cor­dance with the fears of its core con­stituency: those who are older, an­gry and white. And the great irony is that while we may ar­gue about and across those lines, their ul­ti­mate mean­ing­less­ness has sel­dom been more ob­vi­ous. Fever doesn’t ask for your birth cer­tifi­cate. Short­ness of breath doesn’t care what your pass­port says.

For the virus, there are no lines.

CBS News screen­shot

CBS re­porter Wei­jia Jiang, who is Chi­nese Amer­i­can, tweeted that a White House of­fi­cial “re­ferred to #coro­n­avirus as the ‘Kung-Flu’ to my face.”

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