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Donald the deluded – The Nation Newspaper

Donald the deluded – The Nation Newspaper

Brian Browne

The strong man shouts loudly to drown out the cries of the ill and dying. He thinks he can outlast the dead and the sickly so that the lamentations will only be heard by those who render them. Yet pestilence and death comply not with the man’s desires; they persist in growing numbers. Thus, the strong man is forced to continue shouting even beyond his normal bombast. The more he shouts the worse he gets. He will shout himself into madness for madness now creeps toward an intimate proximity.

Such is the condition with President Trump. He entered this year believing reelection within reach. Now his chances evaporate like the flames of a faint and laggard pyre. Trump may never get infected by COVID-19; but his electoral chances have been felled by the disease. Try as he might to blame China, Democrats and nefarious but unnamed others, America’s troubles in handling this matter bear Trump’s name. He may call it the “China Flu” but the real sickness has been Trump’s mismanagement. The crisis was inevitable; there was no choice but its proliferation once the first person was infected. However, choice resided in the quality of a nation’s response to the disease. Here, Trump failed miserably. Almost every step he took to counter the disease contributed to its might.

For Americans, this is the Trump-virus. In this, America has suffered a compound misfortune. The first misfortune was that the disease came. America shares this with the rest of the world. Worse, Trump was in office when it did. In a way, America shares this with the rest of the world as well.

President Trump entered office boasting he would reclaim America’s greatness and the world would be better for it.  In this, he failed perfectly. The nation is torn and disoriented. Racial tension has not been this visible since the 1960s. The economy is in the sink. Unemployment and economic contraction have not been this bad in the 90 years since the Great Depression. Trump’s retinue of allies and friends is shrinking. Former White House staffers and an aggrieved relative have published books that reveal the dumbest and darkest corners of this unregenerate man. He proclaims that he is the best president the nation has had. But, reality speaks otherwise. With the possible exception of Warren Harding and barring divine miracle, Trump will go down as the worst chief executive to command the halls of the White House.

Reality has a way of searing the tares of unwarranted ambition. When a fool gets what he wants, tragedy tends to ensue. In 2016, Trump benefitted from the nation’s ennui with the cautious Obama and with its general dislike of supercilious Queen Hillary. The boorish Republican did not win the 2016 contest. Hillary lost it; with all of her high intellect and high-handedness, she somehow mistook the uncertainty of an election for a sure coronation. The crown was not applied to her awaiting head and the buffoon of the decade was ushered into office upon her overconfidence. Trump was given the chance to prove himself. This proof he has given in the most negative way. He has become the most reviled figure in American politics by a wide measure. When the 2020 election is over Trump will go home lamenting that he lost this election much the same way he won the previous one.

Joe Biden will likely win a landslide although he is a feeble, unattractive candidate. Biden suffers obvious mental decline. The past few years have not been kind to his intellectual capacity. Without a prepared text before him, Biden is incoherent and rambling. He struggles to carry mildly complex thoughts. Biden is also troubled by scandal although the mainstream media speaks naught of this. Biden is a named defendant in a Ukrainian criminal case based on his public admission that he forced the ouster of that nation’s former anti-corruption prosecutor. At that time, the Ukrainian was investigating a notorious gas firm that had Biden’s ne’er-do-well son on its board of directors.

In a normal election against a normal candidate, Biden would be brusquely routed. However, for every blemish that stains Biden, Trump suffers a more glaring one. Neither man has many positive attributes but Biden does not evoke the deep hatred that accompanies Trump. Nearly half the votes Biden receives will be from people whose main concern is removing Trump from office. Less than 5 percent of the votes Trump gets will be from those whose primary concern is precluding Biden from the presidential lair.

Trump has managed to irk every element of American society save for the overtly racist segment of the white population and the most venal aspects of the business community, particularly the financial sector. This coalition, however, is too narrow to cast an electoral victory. Trump is destined for the exit due to his bedeviled strategies regarding COVID-19, race relations and the economic fallout of COVID. Trump has laid his wager and struck a loser’s trifecta.

With regard to COVID, Trump blurs the lines between science, myth and braggadocio. Science said America would be bashed like any nation and perhaps worse because of its centrality to the global economy but also because of its peculiar, less than ideal health care system which is run to optimize profit not to maximize public health. Myth says America is a special place where the normal rules of science regarding diseases and other forces of nature do not apply; armed with a virtue above that of any nation, the divine hand would immunize it from what was to douse the rest of the world.

And if God and Providence proved insufficient, there stood Donald Trump. He would simply huff, puff, push and bully the disease from the shores of the magical country he wished were his personal kingdom. Funny how the foolish believe they can summon Greatness as if by whim or believe they may purchase it as if it were crass merchandise. Stranger still, is the belief that Fate can easily be duped.

Equally strange is that this foolish man believed he could verbally dismiss the virus as a gruff master would wave away a pliant but dull servant. Thus, Trump downplayed the awaiting peril. He further invited calamity by inviting America to ignore public health measures. He portrayed mask wearing as effete, a sign of defeat and a loss of testosterone. In Trump’s imaginings, America never backs down or surrenders. It always wins by virtue of itself and white Americans always defeat the enemy, just like in the movies.

Thus, after a brief lockdown, Trump’s only goal was to reopen the economy. If America only acted normal, it would return to normal was his simplistic catechism. The results would be spectacular but not in the way Trump hoped. Instead of reopening the nation for business, he plunged it toward greater death and sickness. Thus, he had to shout ever the louder to muffle the enlarging bleak chorus of the moribund and the dying.

While developed Asian and European nations have largely boxed the virus, Trump gave it freer range. The price for his premature reopening of the economy has already been a heavy one. The number of daily infections has skyrocketed. While the mortality rate has fallen, the number of daily deaths is climbing toward a thousand. The lower mortality rate coincides with the fact that more young people are contracting the virus.

While the young are less likely than the elderly to die, their encounter with the virus is not without consequence. Hospitalizations are on the rise. In several states, medical facilities are running at near capacity. An unoccupied intensive care unit bed is hard to find. While not dying, many young people are getting seriously ill. The more we learn about the virus, the more we understand that it exacts a toll on those who have no apparent symptoms. They may still have permanent and significant damage to the lungs and other organs. The virus can be a quick assassin but also a patient and quiet crippler.

In the state of Florida, cases approximate 10,000 per day. Arizona has the highest per capita infection rate in the world. Both states followed the Trump policy of ignore the virus and it will flee. Instead of fleeing, it multiplied.

While bordering on lunacy, Trump’s policy is not without its cynical electoral rationale. At first, the virus hit northern states such as New York the hardest. These states tend to vote Democratic in presidential and statewide elections. Thus, Trump wanted the southern, more Republican states to reopen and economically flourish while the Democratic north languished in disease. This would prove his Republicans held the magic wand and he should be reelected. He convinced Republican governors in key southern states like Florida, Georgia, Texas and Arizona to be lax on public health measures yet move quickly to reopen their economies.

The steep increase in cases in these states was predictable to the rational mind. The political mind, however, is adept at tricking itself. Trump will not back down. He is pressing these and other states not to retrace their steps. Again this is based on an even more cynical slant on the infection numbers. Blacks and other minorities disproportionately suffer greater infection and mortality from the virus. This does not bother Trump. He is banking reelection on the belief this fact will not unduly bother his supporters. In reality, he hopes that like him, they will take malicious solace from this racial disparity.

He hopes that his sacrifice of minority lives and health in order to reclaim economic normalcy will be seen by the wider segment of the white population as sound, innovative policy. This will be their rebuff of Black Lives Matter. This also is segues into Trump’s racial strategy.

Trump has clearly decided to run the most visibly racist presidential campaign since Reagan. He has stationed himself as the bastion of white America and its cultural trimmings no matter how foul. While black people and conscientious whites seek a fairer rendition of history to set the stage for present reform, Trump holds that White America must be glorified. For him, greatness lies not in the quality of a historic act but in the whiteness of its doer. Thus, the perpetrators of slavery are to be revered as are those who massacred and stole the land from under the foot of the Native American.

Consequently, Trump launched his campaign in Tulsa, Oklahoma. That Tulsa was the site of an infamous massacre and destruction a prosperous black neighborhood that cost hundreds of lives was not lost on Trump. He reveled in it. Then, he went to Arizona which has a significant Latino population. There he railed against illegal immigrants in a manner that brought insult to Latinos. Next he was off to Mt. Rushmore, a national monument carved from the Black Hills of South Dakota. By formal treaty, this land belongs to the red man who considers those hills sacred. But when whites learned those sacred hills were filled with gold, they discarded the treaty they signed. They hunted down red man and destroyed his way of life. The red man protested Trump’s visit on their stolen land. To them, he is not their president but a trespasser. He went their not to rectify the unfair past but to exalt it. He went there to remind everyone that America is a white man’s nation and that its original inhabitants serve as nothing but disposable villains in the white quest for glory.

Trump has succeeded in insulting black, brown and red people in ways that leave no question. He rejects all notions of restraining police brutality. Meanwhile, he protects symbols of black servitude and red annihilation. In the bluntest way, Trump is making this election about race in America. He thinks this is a winning strategy. Thirty years ago, it was. But not now, given the demographic changes undergone since then. But Trump lives more in his own mind than in the real world. Trump wants to make this a “White Peoples Election.” In fact, this may be the lone strategy open to him given his bumbling and his hateful tendencies. Yet, this may prove to be the last stand for an overtly racist presidential campaign. If so, Trump would have contributed to national progress but in a manner he never envisioned and one which he forever will regret.

Trump has crowned his maladministration an elitist economic policy ordained in neoliberal heaven. His government has availed the financial sector of several trillion dollars. Big business and his big donors have been rendered more than whole though the crisis is not even over. Meanwhile, a pittance has been given the working American. Defaults on car loans, home mortgages and rentals have soared as Trump and the Democrats turn their backs on the average person. Under Trump, America has seen the largest transfer of public funds to big financial houses that has ever been recorded in human history. Trump has given the rich a choice luxury liner to sail through the crisis. But he has not tossed the common man even a string let alone a life rope.

In the end, Trump must carry Florida, Texas and Arizona to be reelected. Because of COVID and racial demographics, he may lose one or all of them.  Of the states of pivotal states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina, Trump can perhaps be reelected if he loses but one or two of them. He will likely lose five.

Trump has made a grave miscalculation which he has little time to amend. This election is a once in a generation health pandemic superimposed on a once in a generation racial encounter. Trump believes he will garner enough white support to win despite or perhaps because of his handling of the COVID matter. His flawed reasoning places too much reliance on the racial disparities regarding COVID.

Just because white people proportionately suffer less does not mean they do not suffer from COVID at all. Whites still get sick and die in greater absolute numbers than any single minority. No matter how Trump tries to glorify and extol some notion of American exceptionalism, his fellow whites are normal people. They are no more heroic than any other race; many of them fear COVID; many of them fear Trump’s cavalier handling of it. While they may not love black people, many recoil from Trump’s shameless racism.

As such, Trump has lost the support of what may be called the moderate racists and those who once believed he would work economic miracles for the average person. In losing these people, Trump will lose the election. America will replace a near madman with a man whose mind is no longer nimble and is collapsing into itself. This election will not turn night to day. At best, it will turn night to dusk.  Sadly, the cries of the dead and dying will continue.

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