Alan Zendell, October 3, 2020
Whatever else it may be, Donald Trump’s personal battle with COVID-19 is a wake-up call for every American. After months of being battered into submission by both the virus and the political bombast that erupted in its wake, Trump’s illness is like a 5 a.m. reveille. It forced me to ask myself some critical questions.
I have made no secret of my disdain and disgust for this president’s policies, lack of a moral center, and disregard for the truth. Given my oft-stated concern that they will wreak serious, permanent harm on our country, my first question was, “do I want him to die?” The answer is a resounding “NO!” Regardless of how I feel about Trump, his death would be a catastrophe for the country.
A subtler version of that question was, “do I care whether he survives, and isn’t every human life, even his worth saving?” If I’m being honest, implications for stability and national security aside, I care about his life and health about as much as he cares about mine. As to whether he survives COVID, the best I can do is quote what he said about the 210,000 people who have already succumbed to the virus: “It is what it is.” Whether he lives or dies, the country needs him to simply go away and never come back.
The most important thing, now, is to not lose sight of what is at stake. Of primary importance is assuring that the election moves forward no matter what else happens. It must proceed in a manner that assures Americans, our allies, and adversaries that whoever wins did so fairly. If the legitimacy of the next president is in question, nothing else will matter. Don’t take your eye off the ball. However you do it, make sure your vote is counted.
No one asked for the president to contract the virus. Most people, including the entire public health and infectious disease community argued relentlessly for him to observe proper protocols. Relentlessly but pointlessly, apparently, as even during the last few days we’re learning his actions were completely irresponsible, if not criminal. He knowingly placed himself in situations that almost guaranteed people around him would be infected.
It’s ironic that based on what we know now, the people he infected were mostly his supporters. Several prominent Republicans, including three senators and multiple senior aides are now in the early stages of the illness, and there will surely be more. And what of the eighteen donors who paid $250,000 each to bask in the glow of their idol Thursday evening? Too bad no one warned them Trump was bringing them a special thank you gift.
If there is justice in this, it is that the president is now a victim of his own criminal malfeasance. It’s not a result of incompetence, as many people charge, although incompetence in governing has been a hallmark of Trump’s administration. It’s the cynical disregard for the lives of all those “disgusting people” whose hands he had to shake. When the smoke clears, we must not forget that he brought this on himself.
There is no longer any doubt that at least 80% of the 210,000 American deaths so far caused by the pandemic would have been averted if Trump hadn’t placed his concern about re-election ahead of everything else. He would have us believe that he was interested in preserving our economy, when it’s clear that all he cared about was preventing a crash in the equity markets. The majority of health experts and economists have said that continually arguing to keep the country open, as Trump likes to say, put the long-term health of our economy at greater risk than shutting it down would have. A presidential mandate to wear masks and keep our distance from each other would have left us in an entirely different place today.
Instead, we have chaos approaching a critical election which Trump and his surrogates attempt to undermine and discredit daily. Instead, with all the crises facing us, the administration’s first and only priority is filling a vacant Supreme Court seat with a Trump-friendly justice before the voters have their say on the direction of the court. Amy Coney Barrett wouldn’t be my first choice, but if Trump won re-election, I’d accept his right to appoint whomever he chooses. Judge Barrett wouldn’t be the first Justice to surprise those who picked her for political reasons who rose above her religious views and ruled with integrity.
The best we can hope for is that Trump survives and having experienced some of the pain he caused millions of others, comes out of it a better man. He may never be capable of empathy, but at least he’ll understand. Unfortunately, that’s as likely to happen as the sun failing to rise tomorrow.