Under intense pressure to contain the spread of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson finally got religion on the issue, calling Monday for a virtual lockdown of Britain that closed all nonessential shops, banned meetings of more than two people and forced people to stay home, except for trips out for food, medicine or exercise. It was an abrupt and necessary about face from his previous “herd immunity” plan, which boiled down to “keep calm and carry on” as bodies drop around you.

Many of America’s hard-line conservatives, on the other hand – including the president – are doubling down on their choice of the economy over individuals. To be specific, the individuals in question are the old and infirm – those most at risk from deadly complications of coronavirus.

Fox News analyst Brit Hume said it’s “entirely reasonable” for the elderly to sacrifice themselves so America can get back to business. “What we’re living in now, this circumstance as we try to beat this virus, is not sustainable,” he told colleague Tucker Carlson on Tuesday.

Glenn Beck, 56, announced on his talk radio show that same day that he’d “rather die than kill the country.”

And Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who turns 70 next week, told Fox News he’s “all in” on lifting social distancing guidelines. “Let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living,” he said. “Those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country.”

You might recognize a Fox News theme, here. The cable channel’s hosts are beating the back-in-business drum so hard, it’s deafening.

“You think it is just the coronavirus that kills people? This total economic shutdown will kill people,” weekend host Steve Hilton said Sunday. And on Monday, host Laura Ingraham tweeted: “In one week we need to be heading back to work, school, stores, restaurants and churches with new protocols in place. The risk if we don’t is that we lose far more in terms of death, pain and suffering than this pandemic will bring.”

And then there’s our president, who takes many of his cues from the conservative news station. Earlier in the week, he called for the country to be “opened up and raring to go by Easter.” And by Wednesday, he was all in, to borrow Hume’s phrase, on conspiracy theories. “The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success,” he tweeted. Previously, he called coronavirus a “new hoax” by the Democrats.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it is. It’s the same playbook conservatives use to push back against efforts to mitigate climate change: Ignore the science if it gets in the way of industry.

This philosophy was made laughably clear in a single tweet by conservative pundit Ann Coulter, who posted a Business Insider chart that showed how much deadlier coronavirus is compared to the flu. Yet she claimed it actually said exactly the opposite. Perhaps she was blinded to the facts by her ideology.

The willful denial of the truth is as reckless regarding coronavirus as it is climate change, but the consequences are more immediate. People are dying – daily.

Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, gets it. “The reality is, this crisis is really just beginning here in our state and across America,” he said Wednesday. “It is critically important that every single person remains vigilant and doing their part by staying in place in their home as much as possible.”

But such Christian and pro-life values of protecting others – staples of conservative philosophy – appear to go out the window when they interfere with American pocketbooks. Coronavirus has made this plain.

There’s still reason to hope more positive peer pressure will silence the conservative chorus. It got to Johnson, whom President Trump seems to respect. Perhaps he’ll take a page from the Brits’ playbook. Or perhaps he’ll stick to his own. And we’ll all pay the price.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.