Thanks to red states, the world views America with shock and pity

Thanks to red states, the world views America with shock and pity

America’s international peers are stunned. Five months into the most destructive pandemic in generations, coronavirus is “extraordinarily widespread” in the United States.

In a powerful video, the brutal realities of America’s response to COVID-19 evoke shock, confusion and profound sadness among viewers around the world.

Indeed, how could the world’s superpower inflict such carnage upon itself?


With one noteworthy exception, the blame lies on red states. More on that shortly.

The human toll of America’s disastrous pandemic response is difficult to overstate. While the majority of the United States’ international peers record zero or low single-digit coronavirus deaths every day, an American died of COVID-19 every minute last week.

Viewed through a different lens, just a few days’ worth of American coronavirus deaths – now cumulatively greater than three Vietnam Wars – equal the number of lives lost in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, Sweden, which employed a controversial approach to the pandemic, recorded three days with no coronavirus deaths last week. Zero. None.

Even when accounting for population sizes and mid-summer coronavirus spikes in Asia and Europe, these sobering realities make the United States an extreme outlier among advanced, industrialized nations.

Beyond America’s unconscionable death toll, most of the developed world is poised for a much speedier economic recovery than the United States. Indeed, unlike in broad swathes of America, many of our international peers heeded the advice of medical experts while also keeping their workers employed.


Worse, as America hemorrhages tens of millions of jobs, the lack of universal health care is putting the United States on track for a public health and financial catastrophe.

To understand just how we found ourselves in such a devastating humanitarian and economic predicament, look no further than how the governors and legislatures of many red states blindly deferred to President TrumpDonald TrumpFranklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Man suspected in wife's disappearance accused of casting her ballot for Trump Stefanik: Cheney is 'looking backwards' MORE and his blatant disregard for medical expertise.

Adjusting for population, the ten states with the highest rates of new coronavirus cases are Florida, Alabama, Nevada, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Accounting for population once again, these states account for more new cases than any other country in the world.

Let that mind-boggling reality sink in for a moment.

Conversely, the ten states with the lowest number of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents are Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and West Virginia (which is tied with Colorado).

Setting aside West Virginia’s relatively rural, isolated population, these divisions track quite closely with America’s political-geographical divide.

These stark, state-based disparities also further obliterate President Trump’s (widely debunked) claims that increased testing explains the explosion of new coronavirus cases in the United States.

After all, if more testing led to more cases, we would be seeing a nationwide – versus a red state – surge in cases.

Similarly, studies have found that, somewhat counterintuitively, protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing did not lead to an increase in coronavirus cases. The vast majority of people living in cities where large protests occurred ultimately stayed home – even more than before the demonstrations – to avoid any possible exposure to rioting and violence.

Much like the statistics of new coronavirus cases, deaths due to COVID-19 reflect America’s stark political divide. The ten states with the highest death rate per 100,000 residents are Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, South Carolina, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada and Alabama.

While naiveté punctuated initial responses to the coronavirus – such as New York’s deadly failures – there are no excuses for the devastation that many red states’ willful ignorance of medical expertise is unleashing upon America today – when the virus’s capacity to wreak havoc on our most vulnerable citizens has been understood for months.

Of course, this discussion would be incomplete without addressing California’s high coronavirus case count.

Beyond its enormous population, the Golden State’s pandemic troubles can largely be chalked up to two factors: (1) an exceptionally high number of coronavirus cases among Latinos, who are more likely to live in multi-generational homes and to work higher-risk, “essential” jobs, and (2) a surge in cases in Orange County, formerly a bastion of conservatism in deep-blue California and the epicenter of the state’s anti-lockdown protests. Unsurprisingly, resistance, denial and doubt about COVID-19 run deep in the OC, California’s anti-mask hotspot.

As coronavirus cases pile up, Orange County’s residents can thank their elected leadership – a vanguard of defiance against scientific and medical expertise – for many of the county’s public health woes.

Perhaps worst of all, Orange County’s public health adviser received death threats after mandating proven coronavirus precautions.

With medical experts at all levels of government receiving such threats, tens of millions of Americans losing jobs and health insurance in the middle of a catastrophic pandemic, a staggering death toll and a tempestuous president who spouts conspiratorial nonsense with reckless abandon, it should come as little surprise that the United States’s closest allies have lost trust in American leadership.

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.