Will COVID decide the next US Presidency?
Americans tend to trust their leaders. They are not naïve, however the institutions built over centuries have taken root leading to this tendency. President Trump realized that quickly after his surprise victory in 2016. As a crafty businessman he had manipulated the system in his favor all his adult life. Why stop now? On his first day as President he made a false claim. Proclaiming his inaugural day crowd was the biggest ever! The media exposed him by showing Obama’s inauguration. It was a far bigger crowd.
Embarrassed Trump was not used to having his bluff called so swiftly so he reacted the only way he knew. He lashed out at the media calling them “fake news”. This laid the foundation of his adversarial relationship that continues till date. Barring Fox News and far right media, all other print, electronic and social media outlets are enemies.
Donald Trump was born into real estate wealth in New York. He chose it as his career. Early on he realized there was an abundance of millionaires in this city. He had to combine fame with money to gain prominence. As a street smart Queen’s businessman he cultivated media contacts and was able to stir enough controversies to stay in the limelight. His social life, his larger than life real estate ventures and his abruptness provided enough headlines.
TV series “The Apprentice” brought him national attention. The earnings from this show also bailed him out from a tottering real estate empire which, as always, he had overleveraged. It also nurtured an overblown ego that bruised easily. He catapulted onto the political scene by joining a crowded race for Republican presidential nominees. He had never held public office but he had enough clout to research into popular voter trends.
There was a backlash from the first black presidency among the elite. It fitted well with his own racist views. He jumped at the opportunity.
He never had any ideological bearings having been a democrat and republican at various stages of his career, but he had acquired sharpened instincts as a smart weathercock. To gain following and create a Trump base he tapped into a reservoir of discontent that had built up since the 80’s when US industries moved overseas. He was able to mobilize voters in swing states, traditionally democrats, to his camp. Opponent Hillary Clinton failed to recognize and react to this phenomenon.
Throughout his term Trump was able to hold onto his base. They show up at his rallies in big numbers at considerable danger to themselves. He was unable to expand this base. In fact, defections of independents and conservative democrats in 2020 are shrinking this base. Hillary’s inability to connect is being replaced by the empathy of Joe Biden in 2020. It is a sharp contrast to Trump’s aggression.
COVID 19 has changed the parameters of 2020 US elections. Pre-COVID President Trump was geared up to win a 2nd term riding the wave of a strong economy. A tested path for many past successful Presidential bids. But with the onset of the pandemic, he made the biggest mistake of his political career. He deliberately chose the path of playing down the virus to keep the focus on economy. He was aware it was a viciously infectious virus as early as January. It was revealed by Bob Woodward in his recordings of Trump.
“Tell a lie and you tell a hundred more to cover it,” an accepted folk wisdom. However, even an accomplished liar like Trump is having trouble staying in the saddle. He made a massive miscalculation by ignoring science and the scientists. Now it is too late to change course and he is getting deeper and deeper into the quagmire. Resisting wearing of mask, holding large gatherings defying social distancing, ridiculing Joe Biden’s cautious approach are all blowing up in his face.
As I write, there is a COVID 19 death in USA every two minutes. Every second there is a new virus infection. The hospitals are filling up and testing is severely inadequate. Yet President Trump is acting as Roman Emperor Nero did in 64 AD. He was playing a fiddle while Rome burnt. A version of events state Nero caused the fire to blame the Christians. Can we draw parallels between then and now? President Trump is blaming his opponents, doctors, scientists and not himself for the COVID fire raging around him.
Candidate Joe Biden recognizes the challenge and has a plan to wrestle this virus to the ground. Unlike President Trump who wants everyone to forget it exists, and proclaims “USA is turning the corner.” Mr. President, around the corner there is a sharp precipice! COVID has gotten closely intertwined with the economy. If the pandemic is not controlled the economy is not coming back.
Democrats have been able to make that linkage and voters are buying into it in a big way.
Voter involvement is highest ever. Nearly 66% of the total votes cast in 2016 have been pre-polled. 90 million Americans have voted by mail and in person enduring hours and hours of wait time.
This enthusiasm has been fueled by concerns over systemic racism, health care, women, LGBT rights, and environmental decline. The results maybe in by the time you read this. But I predict Trump will be an ugly chapter in US and world history. Democrats will regain control of Senate and Presidency. Should the opposite happen, everyone prepare for an American dictatorship.