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What the Anti-Stay-At-Home Protests Are Really About

Anti-social distancing and anti-stay-at-home order rallies are cropping up across the country, reminiscent of the early days of the Tea Party, when well-funded right-leaning groups lit a fire under an already outraged Republican base and helped ignite a political movement.

In fact, Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, a right-leaning advocacy group that helped support the Tea Party movement back in 2009, said in an interview that “this has the same DNA [as] the Tea Party movement.”

The events — some, like in Michigan, featuring thousands of attendees — are organized largely by conservative groups calling state-based measures too draconian. Some of the groups have posted links and images on Facebook that downplay the seriousness of the virus. And other leaders have advocated against following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, like a ban on big gatherings and the recommendation to wearing face masks in certain public settings (because wearing them would be “counterproductive”). Some of the protests have taken on the feel of 2016 Trump campaign rallies, with participants wearing Make America Great Again hats and waving flags emblazoned with the president’s face.

And Fox News is helping to get the word out about the protests, even promoting the protests on air. President Donald Trump spent part of Friday tweeting about them, just minutes after a protest segment aired on Fox News’s America’s Newsroom.

The displays are tapping into Trump’s main message on the coronavirus pandemic: Governors are to blame for the crisis, not him. As the president ratchets up his reelection efforts, his argument is an effort to simultaneously put the brunt of responsibility for the coronavirus catastrophe on the shoulders of his political opponents while maintaining that he holds “total authority” over the pandemic and the states facing it.

It’s an argument that resonates best in rural, redder parts of the country, which have not yet been hit as hard by the pandemic as blue, urban areas. Trump himself has said, “We’ll be opening some states much sooner than others,” despite pushback from legislators and business leaders alike about the current lack of mass testing.

And it’s a message of division, designed to pit Republican-voting areas of states against their Democratic-voting neighbors, even rural Republicans against urban Republicans. All this is to activate white rural voters who supported Trump in 2016 and who he’ll need again in 2020.

Read entire article at Vox