Brownstone » Brownstone Institute Articles » Trump’s Covid Response Casts a Long Shadow
Brownstone Institute - Trump’s Covid Problem

Trump’s Covid Response Casts a Long Shadow


Donald Trump has a Covid problem.

No matter how he wishes it never happened, the pointless (health-wise) and tyrannically devastating pandemic response he launched in March, 2020 is on him. 

He is responsible for that decision.

Sometime between March 9, 2020 and March 16, 2020 – most likely about March 10 – Trump went from being relatively rational in his response to agreeing to monumental societal disruption.

Trump changed his mind. 

Or had it changed for him.

And that is the key to Trump’s Covid problem. Either he stands by his decision full-throatedly or he admits that he – he, the master of the deal – got rolled.

And he can’t do that.

Dr. Fauci, Birx, Collins, his raft of advisors, Big Pharma, the Pentagon, the rest of the state security apparatus, the media, apocalyptic academics who saw a good thing (money- and career-wise) coming, and international organizations itching to prove the point of their existence all pointed the same way: Covid will be a catastrophic problem that calls for an unprecedented response.

And Trump – possibly against his instincts, possibly being promised savior status before the November election – blinked.

Politically, this leaves the nation in a very odd spot – neither presumed presidential candidate wants to in any way, shape, or form talk about one of the most important events in the nation’s history.

The Biden camp could blame Trump for his catastrophic decision, but it won’t because they doubled down on the policy construct. The Trump camp won’t call out Biden for the devastating vaccine mandates and the continued social closures because they started it.

In other words, neither candidate has any reason to bring up the issue of the pandemic response. The situation is somewhat akin to the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine of the Cold War – we won’t push the button if you don’t push the button and neither of us should push the button because we’re both going to die if we do.

It is true that Trump has talked proudly about his Operation Warp Speed, how it gave the world a vaccine in record time. While, from a bureaucratic sense, it was an actual accomplishment, from a public health sense it was not.

If it had worked as advertised, it would have been a monumental accomplishment (not that Trump would have gotten any credit, especially considering how Pfizer held the announcement until after the 2020 vote).

But, in the end the products were not vaccines, they were shots, like the annual flu shots, that could lessen the impact of Covid but did not make a person immune from getting or unable to pass it along. In other words, from a “getting back to normal standpoint” it was technically meaningless because it changed nothing about the public health threat – or lack thereof – of Covid itself.

The shot, when it came to having a meaningful impact on society’s ability to function, was like masking and social distancing; it was pointless social signaling that eventually provided a fig leaf justification to ease up…a bit.

Considering his core of supporters, Trump should be flying around the country loudly talking about closed schools and churches and cops getting fired for not getting the shot and people leaving the military and families divided and friendships ended and businesses shuttered and the real diminution to American liberties that took place.

But he’s not because it would mean having to admit he made a mistake, that the bureaucracy that had everything to gain put one over on him.

Biden could be eviscerating Trump for lax financial oversight of Covid aid and a whole host of other pandemic response problems. But he’s not because his administration not only didn’t do any better, it did worse and the people who gained from the pandemic response tend to support the administration and its policies. In other words, you don’t tell your biggest backers – government workers, progressives, academics, etc. – that everything they believed in during the pandemic was wrong and they have to give back the power they accrued.

This top of the ticket stalemate is one of the reasons for the strength of the candidacy of RFK, Jr. (and the one serious chink in Trump’s armor moving to November).

Polls show most of the public is “over Covid.” But that is not the right question, because being “over Covid” does not at all mean not wanting to figure out what happened.

People don’t really want to discuss the virus – but they do want to discuss the pandemic response.

There is a large segment of the population that wants to know what really happened and neither the Biden nor the Trump campaign wants to go down that road.

RFK, Jr. does want to go that road, a fact that is keeping his candidacy afloat and keeping the collaborationist house media from discussing his campaign (unless framed as either how it damages the Trump/Biden efforts or how lunatic evil he is).

Assuming RFK, Jr. doesn’t win in November, what will happen then – will the nation get the actual honest truth about the pandemic response – how it started, why it started, how involved was the security state, what was the real the damage caused?

If Biden wins, no. The whole event will be filtered to resemble every other memory currently inhabiting Biden’s mind at the moment – fleeting, jumbled, inaccurate, and not considered important.

If Trump wins…maybe. It is possible that Trump is not talking pandemic response now for both political and psychological reasons and that once safely re-ensconced in office he could make a true deep dive into the pandemic response an integral part of his move against the deep state.

The paper trail exists: Fauci talked to the CIA, the Defense Department took over much of the logistics, a detailed plan was already prepared for Trump to implement, etc.

Doing this depends upon Trump being better prepared for this effort than last time – the deep state did not appreciate having its power and ability to make its mortgage payments and its social standing atop the DC pyramid threatened by Trump last time and they were able to do something about it because Trump made the erroneous assumption that just because he was president the bureaucracy would have to do what he wanted.

Of course, it is the pandemic response itself that the deep state could hold over Trump’s head for a second term, if he gets one. The media and the bureaucracy will happily – at the behest of the securitate – do a 180 and declare that the pandemic response was an absolute disaster for the nation and it’s all Trump’s fault, setting off four years of Covid collusion, if you will (it could, but most likely won’t happen during the campaign itself because Biden would be collateral damage).

There is, possibly, an “out” (maybe two) for Trump during the campaign on the Covid issue. First, he can point out that he was not president as the pandemic response lingered through 2021 and 2022 and that he would have done things differently than Biden – for example, not instituting mandates – to at least shorten the torment. He can also very specifically say that he would have put an end to one of the most problematic aspects of the forever response: the metastasizing of the government’s censorship and surveillance programs.

Second, he can say that in his new term he will in fact both end all Covid-related programs, reform the nation’s public health bureaucracy, and set up an actual Covid commission (which could be politically useful for him, despite the risk of embarrassment).

But, at this point, with the political classes not at all interested in discussing the issue, the nation is in the precarious position of just having gone through a level of disruption not seen since World War II and no one in power wanting to talk about it. The collective guilt is covering the nation like layer upon layer of chipped paint.

This should be the main issue of the campaign and it’s not, which is an awful disservice to the nation.

The danger of this is simple: Without a clear-eyed look at the past and a new construct (actually the old construct) for dealing with pandemics that does not involve wholesale devastation, we may be doomed to repeat when, not if, it happens again.

Rights usurped on a whim? Science co-opted by craven greed and dirty power politics? Social trust decimated in the name of theoretical tenuous temporary gain? 

All of this will happen, like a bad rerun, unless the issue is truthfully addressed in the light of day.

Biden and Trump owe the nation that – whether or not they will pay up is the great unknown.

Note – while this piece focused on the failure of Trump, that act – while significant – should be weighed against the entirety of his presidency and the possibilities of a new term in office. Past may be prologue but it is not necessarily predictive. It should also be noted that Trump was, in general, a better president than Biden and would unquestionably be a better president going forward, all things considered.

For further information on March, 2020, please see and

Republished from the author’s Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
For reprints, please set the canonical link back to the original Brownstone Institute Article and Author.


  • Thomas Buckley

    Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore, Cal. a Senior Fellow at the California Policy Center, and a former newspaper reporter.  He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at You can read more of his work at his Substack page.

    View all posts

Donate Today

Your financial backing of Brownstone Institute goes to support writers, lawyers, scientists, economists, and other people of courage who have been professionally purged and displaced during the upheaval of our times. You can help get the truth out through their ongoing work.

Subscribe to Brownstone for More News

Stay Informed with Brownstone Institute