By Umir Haque on Medium..
The minute that it was reported that Hope Hicks, Trump’s “advisor,” had Covid, my kid sis said: “That means he has it too.” (Ed. note: I did.)
She was right. Just a few short hours later, Trump tweeted that he had Covid. So…now what?Needless to say, this throws an already tense and abnormal election into further disarray. But how much so?
You might be right to object right about now: “Wait! Does he really even have Covid?” That’s the first possibility, of three: he doesn’t really have it, and it’s a stunt. The second is that he does, and it caught him unawares. And the third…
Let’s take those one by one.
Is it a stunt? You don’t have to a conspiracy theorist to at least admit the possibility of that much. Trump is a pathological liar — he lied so many times during the debate itself, even CNN called it an “avalanche of lies.” His Presidency is built on Big Lies — from the fiction that he’s a business genius, to the one that he’s a billionaire, to the one that hated minorities are responsible for the problems of “real” Americans. It wouldn’t exactly be much of a stretch to add “I have Covid!” to that list.
Why would he want to do that? To be able to say: “I had Covid — and beat it! And I’m an old man. Everyone who didn’t beat it is weak. You can’t hold me responsible me for it!” And to garner plenty of empathy from gullible pundits along the way — the kinds of men who’ve failed to display a shred of empathy for the kids Trump put in cages in camps, or the women’s whose organs are being cut out in them, but for some reason, are oh-so-suddenly empathic when it comes to an authoritarian leader.
Put yourself in Trump’s shoes. You’re badly behind in the polls. So much so that you have to resort to an increasingly abusive series of authoritarian escalations — your shock troops disappearing and abducting people in the streets, like in a dictatorship. At the debate, you finally go too far, even for your own party, when you tell fascist militias to ‘stand by.” How do you portray yourself as an underdog again? How do you win over people’s empathy, beginning with all those gullible pundits? You play sick. You get a doctor’s note.
And when you beat the disease you never had, there’s a bonus. You emerge as the chosen one to your base of fanatics. It’s a confirmation of all those weird superpowers they ascribe to you in bizarrely ritualistic paintings and pictures, full of quasi-religious adoration. You are special, superhuman, beyond the laws of the mundane world, a true saviour figure.
Now, there’s good reason to in fact to ascribe a grain of belief all the above, even though it sounds outlandish (even to me). That’s because it’s already happened to strongmen across the globe. Bolsonaro’s apparently had Covid not once…but many times. Go ahead and laugh, but it has only strengthened his appeal to his base. Boris Johnson found the same effect in the UK — where he probably really had it, but the net effect was the same, it helped him politically.
So is Trump faking it? Well, I hate to disappoint you, but probably not. The reason I say that is simple. Covid spreads in superclusters, events where superspreaders infect many people all at once. And what appears to be happening is that the GOP has become a Covid supercluster.
Go ahead and chuckle — it’s OK. It is funny, because it’s so predictable. That a party of fanatics still who won’t wear masks, who still call it the “China virus” when America leads the world in deaths, who have led America to have the world’s worst outcomes through negligence, malice, and indifference…it’s hardly surprising that they themselves would become a supercluster in the end.
On another level — from the perspective of the 200K+Americans who have lost loved ones — none of that is funny at all. It is tragic and nightmarish and horrific that the GOP had to become its own supercluster for them to finally take a deadly global pandemic seriously — if they’re even doing that much yet.
That brings us to the second possibility. Trump isn’t faking. He really is ill. And if he’s ill, what are his chances? It’s true that Trump will probably recover. But he is also in a high risk . He is obese, he is old, and it seems like he doesn’t take care of himself. Men from 65–74 have a fatality rate of about 4%. Older men — 74 and above — are the highest risk Covid demographic by a very long way, because the risk seems to increase nonlinearly with age. For those above 74, the fatality rate is about twelve percent. Guess how old Donald Trump is? Seventy four.
Of course, he’s going to receive some of the best care in the world. He’ll be monitored and treated by the minute, unlike most Americans. So in truth his risk is pretty low, despite all his exacerbating lifestyle factors.
How does that impact the Presidential race? It gives us a picture of a President who may well be ill, or may be pulling a stunt for political gain in a faltering race — or maybe both. But in either case, he is likely to be back in action by the time the election happens.
The questions, then, are these.
One: how much sympathy does Covid garner Trump? The answer to that should be: none. Remember, 200K plus Americans have died — that is mass death on the scale of a nuclear bombing. And yet there pundits are, gullibly sending a man who puts kids in concentration camps warm get well wishes.
Two: what is the negative effect of Trump having Covid on the Dems? The answer to that is also likely to be significant. While he is ill, which is a period that will at least a week, a critical week of the last month, they cannot really attack him. They will think they must respect the norm of being polite to an ill President — even if he is the very President who has broken every last norm of decency and dignity in American life, from scapegoating minorities to calling the press enemies of the people to having shock troops disappear people off the streets to treating a pandemic with total indifference.
Should a President like that receive the reciprocity of norms of politeness and civility? I can’t say there is “an” answer to that question — but I do know that a more aggressive strategy would be to not treat Trump with kid gloves while he is sick, given all he has done, given that Covid is a disaster of his making. I would attack him relentlessly for it, even if it is considered tasteless by certain kinds of power figures — because democracy is in a fight for its life now.
That brings me to the third question.
Do Americans get confused now, and forget that democracy is in a fight for its life, instead focusing on a President who may be in a fight for his health? They should not forget that. In a very real sense, Trump’s health is a much, much smaller question than the health of American democracy, which he himself stands against.
Do we have empathy for would-be dictators?
That confronts Americans with a difficult set of ideas and questions, which they’ve never really had to ask. Do we have empathy for would-be dictators? How should we treat figures who want to wreck our democracy, when they are suddenly vulnerable? Do the old norms and rules — which they never applied — remember, he attacked Biden’s dead at the debate — apply to them? What is the appropriate morality and ethics to apply to fascists and authoritarians?
Those are questions which I won’t answer here (don’t worry, we’ll tackle them next time.) For now, my feeling is this.
Trump being sick is real. But like everything else in his sordid life, he exploits it, everything always has an angle. The angle in this case is simple. To garner sympathy even from opponents. To take up time during the crucial last weeks of a critical election. To divert the nation’s attention from the larger issue of a democracy dying.
To make it all about him, all over again. Which is what narcissists always really want. Even if, in the end, it costs them everything.
The WH doctor painted a rosy picture in tbe briefing of minutes ago, this means the turd is not doing well. Whatever one hears from WH staffers it is usually the opposite. It would not surprise me if he kicks the bucket. What gave the docs lies away was his description of the turd's potential high risk factors, and I quote: "well, he is 74, a male and slightly overweight." The turd is obese, but they are afraid of saying even this.
Have you read this story Kathleen? I think level of irresponsibility on display is breathtaking even for Trump. Trump's team knew that someone he had sustained direct contact with was positive for the virus, but he continued to get on Marine One and go to indoor fund raising events. The advertising writes itself. Just think if any of those Trump backers, many of them elderly, die when Trump should have already been under quarantine. [stamfordadvocate.com]
I am not interested in anything about Trump, I am not interested in anything about Biden. My decision has been made, indeed before the last election, and I am only interested in how this election will turn out and I will not know anything about that until AFTER election day. Your mileage may vary.
Don't forget the primary reason, that being able to duck the next two debates after badly losing the first one. If there is even a whiff of deception, and the general stench remains overpowering, he will be rightfully branded a coward. and a stupid coward at that. If Trump survives an actual infection, many people will see that as justice being cruelly thwarted once again.
I am of course not on his side. He is a pathological liar. Everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie. If there is any truth to this at all it will take WEEKS to recover. If he's still contagious for 3 months then I'll go along for the Kool Aid ride. [washingtonpost.com]