From the Belly of the Beast – By Barry Sheppard
The fact that Trump was found to have COVID-19 and became sick enough that he was sent to a Navy hospital has put the pandemic back in the center stage of the presidential campaign.
On October 6, Trump released himself from the hospital and returned to the White House although he remains sick and highly contagious.
His trip provided many photo opportunities, culminating in his appearance on a White House balcony, ostentatiously removing his mask, and striking a pose in profile, jutting his chin out in a Mussolini-like manner, for the photographer.
He retreated without a mask into the White House, threatening to infect more people there than have already been infected.
He tweeted about his health a few hours before he left the hospital, saying he feels better than he has for 20 years. He also again downplayed the pandemic, saying that people should not be afraid of the disease and to ignore it.
The next day he returned to this theme, emphasizing it. His message boils down to telling Americans not to protect themselves from the virus, ignore the guidelines concerning mask wearing a social distancing, and tough it out, like he is doing.
This means accepting many more cases and deaths, openly proclaiming what he has hinted at since February.
He does not do this out of ignorance. We know from a tape of an interview he gave to Bob Woodward that Chinese President Xi had told him in February how dangerous the disease was, and that it is transmitted by air.
As of October 6, these include over a dozen. Among those testing positive are his wife, three Republican senators, a key aide, his press secretary, a former adviser, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, his campaign manager, personal assistants, and the president of the Catholic Notre Dame College.
The former discredited Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, helped Trump prepare for his September 26 debate with Joe Biden. Christie tested positive and had to be hospitalized.
The White House has now prohibited any tracing of those who came into contact with these infected persons and others in his inner circle, to check if they also have the disease, since that would cut across his message.
He has also vetoed guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning when any vaccine could be safely approved. He did this because those guidelines would preclude starting to inoculate people before the election, which Trump wants to do to burnish his battered image concerning the pandemic in hopes of winning some more votes.
This will only increase the already widespread skepticism of anything the FDA says because of its previous kowtowing to Trump’s denial of the science concerning the pandemic. Some 40 percent of the population said even before Trump came down with the disease that they won’t get vaccinated. Unless a very high percentage is convinced of the efficacy and safety of any vaccine, it will not stop the pandemic.
Trump has vetted what his doctors are allowed to say about his condition. What they have said paints a rosy picture, and is so contradictory that we don’t know what the real facts are about his health.
We don’t even know when he got the disease, how long he was contagious before his hospitalization, knowledge necessary to try to find whom he may have infected, which he wants to keep unknown.
We did learn that he had a fever, but not how high. We were told that he received oxygen, but not when. We don’t know why he is on a steroid that has been given only to the worst cases, to reduce the immune system’s dangerous over-response to the virus.
In reality, we won’t know how sick he is for many days and maybe weeks.
There is a new rise in COVID cases. At the height of the rise in daily cases in March and April, there were 30,000 per day. After the lockdown, that gradually dropped but remained above 20,000. With the relaxation of the lockdown, new cases rose to over 60,000 per day in the summer.
New restrictions were imposed in some places, which brought down the number again, but still stayed above the earlier high of 30,000. Now there is a new uptick.
Over 210,000 people have died in the U.S. as of October 6, and new predictions are that could double by the end of the year unless mask wearing and social distancing becomes predominate in the population.
That cannot happen as long as the 40 percent who follow Trump’s lead continue to defy those proven precautions.
When Trump dismisses the virus he insults all those who have died and will die, their loved ones, and the many more who have suffered severely from the disease or continue to have serious symptoms, including neurological ones.
He still doesn’t connect the disease to what it has done to the economy, or indicate the slightest grasp of the truth that the economy will not heal until the pandemic is brought under control and qualitatively reduced.
PREPARING TO UNDERMINE THE ELECTION RESULT
He and the Republicans are pressing forward on other fronts. One is their campaign that the coming election will be marked by massive voter fraud. Trump keeps emphasizing without evidence that mail-in ballots are inherently fraudulent. Since many are wary of voting in person due to the dangers of getting the virus, the mail-in vote is expected to be large.
By downplaying the virus, he hopes to bolster his case against mail-in voting.
Another charge is that Democrats round up undocumented immigrants to illegally vote. After his 2016 win in the Electoral Collage, Trump used this argument to claim he was defrauded by over three million such votes, which explained why he lost the popular vote.
In reality, the undocumented steer away from things like voting that could endanger them.
The Republicans in 2016 also raised voter fraud in the run-up to the election. Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence led that charge. An article this year in the October 4 New York Times Sunday Magazine documented that “The Trump campaign had a team of election lawyers standing by to dispute election results throughout the country, and the Republican National Lawyers Association had readied a self-described ‘Navy SEAL-type operation’… In the event of a Republican loss, they would need a story, and fraud was it.”
The extensive article also said, “As the 2020 presidential election nears, it is becoming clear that the Trump administration and the Republican Party are not just looking at but heavily investing in the largely nonexistent problem of voter fraud.” The Magazine’s “investigation, based on a review of thousands of pages of court records and interviews with more than 100 key players – lawyers, activists and current and former government officials – found an extensive effort to gain partisan advantage by aggressively promoting the false claim that voter fraud is a pervasive problem.”
TRUMP CONTINUES TO PROMOTE VIOLENCE
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump declared at his first presidential debate with Joe Biden. Trump was asked by Fox News moderator Chris Wallace to denounce white supremacists. Instead, Trump issued this clarion call to the Proud Boys, a growing rightwing extremist group of Trump loyalists formed in 2016, openly promoting political violence.
William Barr, the Attorney General and head of the Department of Justice, and a Trump tool, recently said that the Department is preparing for violence during the elections. Taken in this context, Trump’s call to the Proud Boys (and by implication other similar armed white supremacist groups) means “stand back now” and be ready for action on election day.
Trump has also called for an “army” of his supporters to show up at election sites to “oversee” the ballots for fraud – in fact to intimidate especially Black voters from voting.
Restrictions on the right to vote for African Americans in Republican-led states have been upheld by the Trump Supreme Court. These include shutting down polling sites in Black areas, ID and other requirements that poor workers have difficulty in obtaining, and others reminiscent of the Jim Crow era in the South.
Trump and the Republicans are deliberately fomenting chaos around the election. It looks like they will make enough legal challenges to the outcome if Trump loses to throw the election into the courts. Are they counting on the Supreme Court, whose rightist majority is soon to be augmented by Trump’s new appointee, to give the election to Trump?
For a detailed overview, written from a liberal perspective, of the ways the Trump is preparing to undermine or even reject the election result see here – ed.