Groups of Americans took to statehouses across the country over the weekend, staging protests to “reopen the country” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. President Donald Trump egged the protestors on, tweeting all-caps pleas to “LIBERATE” states with Democratic governors.
By now you’ve probably seen footage of the protests; any one of the disturbed videos, pictures, or protest signs are enough to dismiss the actions completely. Plus, a fair chunk of the protestors were business owners and people simply hoping to go shopping or get their hair done—making them easy for comedians like Tim Robinson to lampoon.
The people in this “Open up Minnesota” video:
THREE women who own hair salons, two women who own massage places, a woman who owns a bowling ally, and a woman who owns a vacation rental
These people don’t want to “get back to work,” they want THEIR EMPLOYEES to get back to work! https://t.co/fxIzLWMqH9
— Sam (@halaljew) April 19, 2020
Ohmigod, did Tim Robinson actually crash the Fox News coverage of the Michigan anti-quarantine protest? pic.twitter.com/UorN1opG6a
— Bill Kuchman (@billkuchman) April 20, 2020
The protests are idiotic and represent a loud, ignorant minority. And that’s exactly why they might work.
It doesn’t matter that Americans overwhelmingly favor COVID-19 shutdowns. Nor does it matter that the protests aren’t representative of the workers who’d actually be risking their lives to placate them. The “reopen” protests are a vocal minority likely astroturfed by major conservative benefactors and encouraged by Fox News—much like the Tea Party movement in 2009, which ran roughshod over the Republican Party and became its dominant ideology.
In fact, reopen protests are even more cynical than the Tea Party, openly prioritizing the economy over human life. But the choice America faces isn’t “either/or.” The country has more than enough economic power and resources to keep the country shuttered indefinitely, pay workers’ salaries, provide universal healthcare, and fund adequate COVID-19 testing.
Everyone who says this stuff wants you to believe we have no choice but to force everyone back into the market to work but the truth is that we have the resources to freeze the economy for as long as necessary. The issue is that people like Walsh are ideologically opposed to it. https://t.co/fysktyiRXl
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) April 20, 2020
But the media is historically gripped by aggrieved white groups protesting government oppression. Fox News compares reopen protestors to American revolutionaries and other organizations classify them as a working class movement only to be ignored at one’s peril.
“Working class” used interchangeably with foaming white people example No. 45,890.
Does Baker have evidence these people are working class? Remember the Tea Party—which this mirrors—was disproportionately wealthier. The Tea Party, like this, is mostly racist bourgeois petulance https://t.co/78HkVgqDYO
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) April 18, 2020
Ironically, that sympathetic-sounding media coverage is exactly what could lead to the reopen protests actually gaining political clout. It’s the Tea Party playbook rewritten a decade later, only this time it’s co-signed by a supportive president who doesn’t care if American citizens live or die.