Friday 2 October 2020

After Trump?

Fate has dealt 2020 a cruel hand, but there's something poetic seeing Donald Trump contract the diease he steadfastly refused to take seriously. He should have taken his own advice and necked the bleach.

I'm mindful of the consequences crowing can have for those scared out their wits about contracting it. But in Trump's case, there is no sympathy here. The worst possible president at the worst possible time, he has encouraged every boss to force their workers back into work, backslapped every Covid-sceptic governor to lift restrictions, made the most ridiculous and harmful public health claims, rendered consistent preventative action impossible, and used the crisis to whip up a racist campaign against China, a campaign that has made life hellish for Americans of East Asian heritage. Trump's recklessness, exceptional incompetence, overweening naricissism and, ultimately, complete lack of regard for the lives of others has put 200,000 people in the ground and left many more with the lingering effects of long Covid. Forgive me if I don't wish the President well.

As Trump's symptomatic condition goes from "mild" to "moderate" to treatment by experimental drugs to an extended "precautionary" stay in a military medical facility, what happens next with the election campaign? Seems Trump and many of his inner circle either have it or, like Mike Pence, were exposed to it. There's concern Joe Biden might also have copped a dose from Trump during the week's live TV debate. As far as Trump goes, the grid is out the window. The opportunities to stir the racist pot to get the support out will be missed and, seemingly, assuming Biden remains healthy he can tour all the crucial swing states without facing the neurosis and the skipful of dead cats emanating from Trump's Twitter account. Game, set, match to the Democrats?

Possibly. There is certainly a level of confusion and despondency among the Trump base. For those who believed his playing down the seriousness of Coronavirus might be wondering how a sniffle and a cough might incapacitate him. Indeed, a tour of his 4Chan fans and the allied networks of white nationalist and conspiracy theory boards shows not insignificant quantities of disorientation, if not despondency. Is it an 11 dimensional ploy? Are his opponents in the deep state bundling him out in a shadow coup? Or is Trump stepping out of public view to more effectively wage his secret war against the nonces, the Satanists, and the Clintons? Whatever happens, an easy conspiracy theory can be moulded to fit the facts and are getting cooked up as you read this.

Yet this is not the preserve of America's unhinged right. There are plenty on both sides of the Atlantic who are spamming Twitter with their own liberal/leftish conspiratorial takes of Trump's illness. These are the same people who believe Boris Johnson's difficult brush with Covid-19 was a wind up job conceived to build support and elicit public sympathy. The thinking goes if Trump disappears from public view, his absence will be taken for Christ-like suffering, and his pain and trevails will magically draw support as American voters rally around the stricken president. This is nonsense. On the sympathy vote argument, while all world leaders enjoyed a bump in support during the initial outbreak, Trump's was the weakest. He also carried on peddling divisive politics in the hope of turning out his white, middle class base. Repeating the trick of 2016, in other words. He cannot be the rallying point for the whole nation, and so a significant sympathy vote inclining to Biden's camp are suddently going to cleave the other way is doubtful. This said, the alacrity with which some liberals and leftists have leapt into conspiracy thinking underlines the anxiety they have about their own capacity to win. They overestimate, as opposed to soberly analysing the strength of reaction Trump has gathered. Trump isn't the antichrist, tangerine or otherwise. There was nothing supernatural about his 2016 victory, and diabolism isn't going to magic a victory from nowhere. No, the unease exists because the initiative has passed entirely to the Democrats. If they screw up now, it's entirely on them and the politics of their new liberal hero.

What if millions get their wish and Trump succumbs to the disease? A fitting end for him, but the possibility of a new and dangerous phase for American politics can't be discounted. Thanks to the hold of conspiracy thinking, QAnon can point the blame at the evil cabal. Others the deep state. Others the agents of China. Whatever explanations emerge and circulate, their great leader's passing would mark an occasion of mourning and despair. Most are going to fall silent until another right wing bandwagon rolls into town, but for some his passing will be experienced as illegitimate, a crime committed by whichever shadowy group believed to be pulling the strings. In this sense, Trump becomes a martyr, someone whose deceased person could inspire more mass murder/mass casualty events - with women, minority ethnicities, and sexual minorities the most likely targets. This, in their twisted imaginary, is vengeance, and it's international. If QAnon can cross the ocean and cohabit with our own covidiocy fringe, why not violence too?

For this simple reason, while I can understand the many, many people wanting to see Trump die at the behest of those he effectively condemned, we need to think carefully about what we wish for.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Guardian had a piece by Andrew Gawthorpe re Trump, at 10.25 this morning, this was the top-rated comment, 222 likes.

“I don’t want Trump to die now. I want him to lose the election first.”

Amazingly they've removed it, I think that reasonably qualifies as hate speech. But it gives one a little insight into the people whose favourite complaint is "they're so full of hate".

The funny thing is, their main complaint against Trump boils down to "he's so uncouth!". Listening to the English educated middle classes talking about Trump or UKIP is like listening to the English educated middle classes in 1901 talking about the ILP.