Even as reported coronavirus cases spike in multiple U.S. states, President Donald Trump has expressed support for people and businesses that break local social distancing guidelines and defy the advice of health officials in his own administration.
Trump’s support for these businesses tracks with reporting from various outlets that his administration believes a swift end to social distancing measures will revive the faltering economy and improve his reelection chances.
On Tuesday morning, Trump posted a tweet supporting Tesla founder Elon Musk, who reopened a factory in Fremont, California, on Monday despite rules in Alameda County restricting businesses from reopening if they “do not permit physical distancing or have high-touch equipment.” Musk has previously served on multiple economic advisory committees for the Trump administration.
“California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW. It can be done Fast & Safely!” Trump claimed on Monday.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Tesla parking lot was filled with employees’ cars on Monday, but an Alameda County spokesperson said Tesla could only resume “minimum basic operations” such as building security, inventory delivery and remote work — not production.
“If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me,” Musk tweeted Monday.
In recent years, multiple employees have publicly complained about working conditions at the Alameda Tesla factory, and in 2019, a judge ruled that Musk had illegally tried to sabotage efforts to unionize there.
Nonetheless, Musk’s purported willingness to be arrested is apiece with attempts by Trump, conservative media and conservative businesses to appropriate the vocabulary of revolutionary movements in describing their aims to “reopen” the economy during a deadly pandemic.
In April, Trump posted tweets calling for the “liberation” of Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia as sparse groups of protestors ― some of whom were armed ― gathered in each state to demand an end to social distancing guidelines.
On May 5, Trump said Americans “should think of themselves as warriors” as he encouraged them to return to work. “Our country has to open,” he said.