I'm Not a Liberal. But I Choose Reality Over President Trump | Opinion

President Donald Trump gained notoriety through reality TV. Yet since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, his actions and statements have become increasingly divorced from reality. Now about 140,000 Americans are dead, and new cases hit a record 75,600 nationwide on Thursday. Even Republican leaders in states like Texas and West Virginia are being forced to accept certain basic facts about the virus—issuing mask-wearing mandates and closing bars.

Yet it is clear there remain two parallel universes within our country: Trump's America, which feeds on misinformation about not only the pandemic but also Black Lives Matter, and the rest of the country grounded in reality and just trying to survive this period of crisis.

As a recent graduate of a liberal law school and resident of a major East Coast city, my social circle and environment is increasingly and unapologetically diverse. It is also increasingly and unapologetically masked. But when I see videos and images of Trump's rallies, showing crowds containing few masks and even fewer faces of color, the truth is obvious: This president and his campaign of misinformation are a danger to the health and well-being of our nation.

I am not a liberal. I have always considered myself a moderate—identifying with conservatives on some issues and liberals on others. While I empathized with the feeling of mourning at Harvard Law School following the 2016 election, I still thought the Trump administration had the potential to do good, especially if talented, patriotic individuals agreed to serve within it and temper the president's impulses. Chief among those individuals in which I placed my hope was my father: an Obama holdover and Trump's first VA secretary.

Yet over the past several months, I have come to believe that supporting Trump because you "like his economic policies," or frankly for any other reason, is no longer justifiable. If you still support Trump in July 2020, you are complicit in his encouragement of reckless behavior in the face of a global pandemic, denial of institutional racism, and deliberate efforts to drive our country away from science, facts and, yes, reality.

Trump has succeeded in making this global health crisis political and further dividing the country. Consider how Georgia Governor Brian Kemp—a close ally of the president—issued an executive order on Wednesday to suspend all mask mandates within the state. It was no accident that the executive order arrived on the same day that Trump visited Atlanta. Similarly, business leaders, including AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron, have acknowledged the politicized nature of protecting public health. "We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy," Aron said to defend his company's decision to not require masks inside theaters before reversing that decision. "We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on these people who believe strongly that it is not necessary."

Indeed, the decision to wear masks—and, more generally, whether to abide by social distancing guidelines and take the coronavirus seriously—is now a "political controversy." Trump wore a mask in public for the first time only last weekend, and inspired by the Republican president's example, Republicans are much more likely, according to the Pew Research Center, to say that masks should rarely or never be worn. Efforts by businesses to require customers to wear masks have even led to incidents of violence.

Originally, it was hypothesized that Democrats were more likely to approve of coronavirus precautions because many of them reside in major liberal cities, which had been hit harder by the virus. Until late May, counties won by Trump in 2016 had reported just 27 percent of the virus infections in the United States—meaning blue states were disproportionately impacted by the virus.

2020 Trump Campaign Rally
President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally on June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The indoor rally was initially scheduled for the holiday Juneteenth. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty

This hypothesis is now being tested, as Texas, Florida and Arizona emerge as new U.S. epicenters of COVID-19. These states may have much more difficulty getting infection rates under control because of the greater sway Trump holds over politicians and the public. Their defiance, mimicking the president's defiance, of health experts has extremely negative implications for America's ability to resume normal life and save lives.

Meanwhile, the pandemic's disproportionate effect on communities of color is well documented. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the hospitalization rate of Black people with coronavirus is five times that of white people. COVID-19 has laid bare the systemic inequalities that persist in America, as have the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many more Black people.

Yet when a CBS News reporter asked Trump on Tuesday why Black Americans are dying at the hands of police, Trump replied, "So are white people.... More white people, by the way." Yet data shows that Black people are three times as likely to be killed by police as white people, according to the Mapping Police Violence database. But still, many Americans blindly believe such statements from Trump. While about 64 percent of white Democrats support Black Lives Matter, only 20 percent of white Republicans do.

Can we survive another four years like this? For those who have straddled the line—supporting or remaining undecided about Trump while simultaneously accepting the science and facts—it is time to pick a side. The next four years must be spent rebuilding reality.

Jennifer Shulkin is a graduate of Harvard Law School , as well as a former judicial law clerk in the Eastern District of New York and assistant district attorney in Manhattan. She currently works as a white-collar criminal defense attorney.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.