Donald Trump built his political identity around exclusion. In his depiction, foreigners are always scheming to steal Americans’ jobs and bring sickness and physical harm into the country. A wall on the southern border would be a visible symbol of Trump’s outlook. American exceptionalism would be nurtured through the nation’s ability to keep others out.
Trump’s unwillingness to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously is resulting in a much different kind of wall—one protecting the rest of the world from an endangered America and its citizens.
Yesterday, The New York Times reported that, as the European Union makes plans to reopen its borders, member nations may exclude Americans from the list of nationalities welcome to enter. A day earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated that he was in no rush to end restrictions on travel from the U.S. across his country’s southern border. During the coronavirus pandemic, the United States is exceptional in its vulnerability and weakness. It is the hardest-hit developed nation on Earth.
Welcome to America’s summer of isolation. Despite the good works of many governors and mayors, the heroic efforts of nurses and doctors, and months of dutiful hand-washing, social-distancing, and mask-wearing by millions of Americans, the U.S. is being judged by its sickest states and most reckless politicians. Becoming a global pariah isn’t just embarrassing. It could also limit Americans’ economic activity and freedom of movement in ways that citizens of the world’s leading power are unaccustomed to seeing.