“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” Trump Pours Gasoline on Mounting Tensions Over Stay-at-Home Orders

Paul Sancya/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.As the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to rise, thousands across the country—many of whom were seen wearing MAGA hats and chanting “lock her up” in reference to Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer—took to the streets on Wednesday to protest stay-at-home orders that states have put in place to curb the spread of infections. 

This looks like a still from a horror movie. It’s not. It’s yesterday outside the Ohio Statehouse. Incredible shot by @joshuabickel pic.twitter.com/wZFye9YTCX
— Shawn Mitchell (@shecky218) April 14, 2020

The scenes were a kind of depressing manifestation of President Donald Trump’s own frustrations with the public health crisis and the social distancing measures—largely endorsed by his own administration—that he blames for tanking the economy. The hellish timeline continued on Friday with the president blurting out in quick succession:

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020

LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020

The trio of tweets, which target states controlled by Democratic governors, is the latest signal that social distancing has fully warped into a culture war, one that depicts Democrats as oppressors willing to sabotage the economy and perhaps, in turn, the president’s reelection chances. The increasingly partisan dynamic comes as Trump’s poll numbers continue to slide amid his botched handling of the crisis.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Trump’s outburst seems to be linked to a segment he saw on Fox News.

Minutes after a Fox News segment on a protest against social distancing measures outside the Minnesota governor’s office, by conservative “Liberate Minnesota” group, Trump tweets “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”
Left, Fox’s America’s Newsroom, 11:19 a.m.Right, Trump, 11:21 a.m. pic.twitter.com/RvFV68oOCb
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) April 17, 2020