The disparity between the parties was underlined Thursday afternoon when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Governor Gavin Newsom, both Democrats, issued quick orders that closed all non-essential activities, first in the city and then in the entire state. , a jurisdiction of 39.5 million people.
This divergence reflects not only ideological but also geographical realities. So far, the largest clusters of the disease and the most aggressive responses to it have actually been centered in some large metropolitan areas prone to democracy, including Seattle, New York, San Francisco and Boston. At Thursday’s White House press briefing, Deborah Birx, the administration’s response coordinator, said that half of the nation’s cases so far are in just 10 counties. The possible political effects of the epidemic can vary significantly depending on how widely it spreads beyond these early beachheads.
If the virus never becomes pervasive beyond big cities, this could strengthen the sense among many Republican voters and office holders that the threat has been overstated. It could also fuel the type of xenophobia that Trump and other GOP leaders, such as Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, have encouraged by labeling the disease as “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus”.
“There is a long history of conservatives who demonize cities as sources of disease to threaten the” pure heart “,” says Geoffrey Kabaservice, director of political studies at the libertarian Niskanen Center and author of Rule and ruin, a history of the modern republican party. “This is an old theme. So it could be the way it is.”
On the contrary, the accusation that Trump failed to move quickly enough could cut deeper if the burden of the disease is strongly felt in smaller communities where his support is deeper. Most medical experts believe that the epidemic will eventually reach all corners of the country, including small towns and mostly republican rural areas that are now less visible.
“There is no reason to think that smaller communities will be protected,” said Eric Toner, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It may take longer to get there, but as long as there are people coming and going … the virus will eventually find its way in rural communities too.”
However, some experts believe that during the outbreak, the biggest effects will remain localized in large urban centers. “The bottom line is that every epidemic is local, and social networks and physical infrastructure in any specific geographic area will determine the spread of the epidemic,” Jeffrey D. Klausner, professor of medicine and public health at the David Geffen School of Medicine. at UCLA, he told me. “In particular, respiratory viruses depend on close social networks and will spread much more efficiently in crowded and densely populated urban areas.”