I mean this quite literally. Legally, if you knew or reasonably should have known that your actions were likely to be the direct cause of someone’s wrongful death, and you displayed depraved indifference to that fact, that’s murder.
Let’s review the situation:
(1) The COVID-19 epidemic in the USA is reaching unprecedented heights. Daily cases are about to top 200,000, and despite vastly improved treatments, deaths are now hitting 2000 per day. That’s just the present situation: there’s every reason to think this will get much worse over the winter months (that’s how viral epidemics work).
(2) The current (non)response of the American political system to this situation is among other things a particularly grim illustration of the sunk cost fallacy. There is now every indication that mass distribution of multiple highly effective vaccines is just a few months away. If we had known this past March that the choice facing the nation was to either adopt moderately stringent lockdown measures for perhaps three or four months, or do very little to actually stop the spread of the virus, with the difference in the death toll between the two approaches adding up to several hundred thousand eminently savable American lives, it would have been considered completely insane by everyone not as evil as Richard Epstein to take the latter route.
Look, I get that people aren’t robots. We’re all suffering from COVID fatigue. We don’t want to do this any more. But consider what we’re facing: Deaths caused by COVID-19, both directly and indirectly — lots of places are running out of ICU space already — are going to hit several thousand per day very soon. The overwhelming majority of those deaths would be preventable by taking what we now can be confident will be a very short-term moderate lockdown approach — a matter of behaving like we actually care about our own lives and those of our neighbors for perhaps 12 weeks!
ETA: Note that we’ve had nearly 350,000 excess deaths in the USA this year already, i.e., almost 100,000 more than the official COVID-19 death toll. A lot of these excess deaths have been caused indirectly by COVID-19’s spillover effects on the medical system, and this problem is about to get a lot worse.
Conservatively speaking, we could save at least a half million American lives over the next few months by doing what many other countries have done, which is to keep the epidemic from exploding while waiting for the medical-scientific cavalry to arrive. It’s suddenly clear that this wait is now nearly over, so all the “herd immunity” arguments made by sociopaths like Epstein have tumbled over the line from being abstract exercises in intellectual sociopathy, to becoming concrete arguments for committing mass murder on a national scale.
(3) Which brings us to the worst sociopaths of all: Donald Trump and his enablers. Trump’s refusal to concede an election that he lost, and the refusal of his minions to do their legal duty to enable the transition to a new administration, are going to end up killing several hundred thousand Americans, who will die of COVID-19’s direct and indirect effects, but who would have lived if moderate lockdown measures had been supported and by the Trump administration, and the rollout of the vaccines had taken place at the rate it would have taken place if Trump and his enablers hadn’t spent the entire two and half months between Election Day and the inauguration of Joe Biden making it impossible to undertake that rollout appropriately.
This is completely foreseeable, right here, right now. It’s not speculative. It’s what’s happening, and going to happen, because of what these people are choosing to do and not to do.
And that’s simply murder: the cold-blooded murder of hundreds of thousands of Americans who will be dead by this spring, but would have still been alive if Donald Trump and his enablers hadn’t thought that creating a myth about a stolen election was more important than not killing the hundreds of thousands of Americans who we know to a moral certainty are going to die as a result of the bottomless moral depravity of Donald Trump, certainly, but also of everyone else who is choosing to continue to enable this, from Mitch McConnell on down.
Say their names. And name their crime for what it is: Mass murder.