We are now just over two weeks since Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp ordered his state to begin reopening in the face of the Chinese virus. At the time it was a gutsy decision met not just with skepticism, but by ugly derision. Stacey Abrams, whom Kemp bested in the governors race and is auditioning for Vice President, called Kemp’s decision, and by extension Kemp, “dangerously incompetent.”
Georgia: 14th highest infection/7th lowest testing rate; less econ resilient & 1000s of low-wage workers already forced to risk their lives to make a living. Weakened healthcare w/closed rural hospitals, no Medicaid expansion & a doctor shortage. Reopen? Dangerously incompetent. https://t.co/FFfk9EoN3l
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) April 20, 2020
The Atlantic magazine was even less subtle, running a piece titled “Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice.” It read as you might expect. Ignorant conservative governor cares more about money and the economy than saving human lives. The message was echoed throughout cable news media, stone-faced medical experts like Sanjay Gupta were convinced Kemp was in mortal error.
But here’s a bit from the Atlantic screed that is worth taking another look at. “Because of how infections tend to progress, it may be two or three weeks before hospitals see a new wave of people whose lungs look like they’re studded with ground glass in X-rays.” It’s dramatic imagery. But now, having traveled by the typical method two weeks into the future, we know this prediction simply did not come to pass.
Since Kemp ordered and then enacted his relaxation of the shut down new cases of coronavirus in Georgia have fallen, not increased. So have hospitalizations. While some hysterical critics may cling to their doom saying by urging its still too early, or there isn’t adequate testing, the numbers show, without any doubt, that the spike they feared, and presented as the most likely outcome, never materialized. Let me put it more simply. They were wrong, Kemp was right.
Even the model for transmissiblity of covid-19 saw steep declines. Kemp didn’t create a medical emergency, he gave his state an economic head start without occasioning any, um, “human sacrifice.”
Even President Trump owes Kemp a few kind words. Just after the announcement of the reopening, Trump made clear at a White House press conference that he disagreed with the scope of Kemp’s decision. Trump was defending his own White House guidelines that Kemp was ignoring, but also made clear as he basically has from the beginning that governors ultimately have to make these hard choices based on their expertise regarding their own states.
In a world of responsible media and political leadership, Kemp’s vindication and the absolutely positive story coming out of Georgia would be cause not just for apologies to Kemp, but analysis of how his decision’s success can be translated to other states. But that isn’t happening, a Google search for [“Kemp” “Georgia” “CNN”] with a date range of April 23 to April 30 revealed 15 articles critical of Kemp on the CNN website. The same search from May 7 to May 14 revealed just four articles on the site, and two were about drivers’ licenses.
I get it, nobody likes to be wrong. It’s embarrassing, especially when what you are wrong about is predicting mass death. But those in the media and elsewhere who derided Kemp need to shine a light on his victory now, not just out of decency, but because it can serve, and lets face it, already is serving, as a model for unleashing the economy across the nation.
All too often when the media or our esteemed voices in politics get something blatantly wrong it drops into a memory hole never to seen again. “Wrongheaded hysteria about Kemp and Georgia?” Well, it’s as if it never happened. Except it did happen. Even at a time when two weeks feels like two years, everyone is old enough to remember a fortnight ago when Kemp was being called a monster.
Throughout the Trump presidency the media and his opponents have behaved like dishonest children, whether on Russian collusion, Ukraine, or this awful virus. They ignore anything that does not fit nicely into to their “The GOP is destroying the country” narrative. It was harmful and destructive while in the political sphere and now in the medical and economic sphere it even worse. Those who predicted the worst appear more concerned with saving face than saving jobs even in the face of tens of millions of jobs lost.
Not this time. This time we must be clear as a bell that Kemp was right and the media was wrong. The truth matters. Oh, and by the way, the fact that Georgia did not have a spike and is coming back to life is good news. The only way it could be bad news is if it makes one look like they behaved as a hysterical idiot two weeks ago. But at the end of the day, Kemp’s success as keeping the virus at bay while opening the economy is more important than hurt feelings at CNN and The Atlantic.