Hospitalized with a contagious disease, the president continued to behave recklessly. Yesterday, he demanded that his Secret Service detail pile into a hermetically sealed car with him to parade him past a few well-wishers congregating outside. Trump’s macho spree, which needlessly compromised his agents’ health, marked a nadir in his relations with Americans already disgusted and fed up with his grossly irresponsible, inconsiderate ways.
It is terribly demoralizing to realize that someone so ungoverned and ungovernable will be returning to the summit of American power. Last week, the New York Times’ expose of Trump’s finances showed cheating to be one of Trump’s lifelong passions, whereas Tuesday’s debate showed Trump to be deeply unreliable when truth and trust are needed most. Trump is like a faithless husband to the US, his bride. His love of lying and threats toward voters and other segments of the American population are abusive traits, which, in a marriage, no self-respecting spouse would tolerate. Yet no one in America can rein in Donald Trump or call him to account.
As Trump returns to the White House from Walter Reed, the nation braces for the next episode of this excruciating charade. Even though Biden is ahead in the polls, whether the US is on the verge of being rid of Donald Trump or Republican control of the Senate is still very uncertain. The people in Trump’s administration, his allies in the Senate and elsewhere, donors and capitalists who support Trump for cynical reasons: their actions threaten America’s very being. Today, I wonder whether the US can survive as a republic if they pull off a win. In any event, it will take years of effort to build back better, to check the destructive forces that Trump has summoned. American voters have the power, if only they will wield it, to stave off further disaster, so that reform can begin.
What are your thoughts on hearing of the unexpected illness of a president who has pitted his fortunes against those of a majority of the American people? After flouting and dismissing measures known to protect the public against COVID’s spread, Trump has gotten the disease himself. He’s in the hospital and said to be doing well, but any outcome is possible. He could recover after just a slight case, or he could worsen; he could die.
Many in Trump’s Republican party mimicked his cavalier approach to the disease. Just as he became sick, so too have a passel of his Republican allies taken ill with COVIDat the same time: GOP party chair Ronna McDaniel; First Lady Melania Trump; Senators Thom Tillis (NC), Ron Johnson (WI), and Mike Lee (UT); Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s close aide Hope Hicks, his campaign manager Bill Stepien, and former Governor Chris Christie, who, with several others listed here, helped Trump prepare for last Tuesday’s debate.
The White House approach to COVID protocols was lax, leading to an outbreak that threatens the stability and security of the United States by sidelining, distracting, and disabling too many of its influential figures at once.
Yet one’s overall impression is how little any sick or healthy Republican cares. It doesn’t matter much to Republicans that the White House can’t do the work of the people, because that long ago vanished as top priority. The Republicans’ main focus since Trump tested positive has been on his suddenly changed situation and what it might mean for them. The party’s agenda consists of two main items: rushing Amy Coney Barrett onto the Supreme Court and making sure (by any means) that Trump wins re-election. No one cares whether Trump misses a few days of work at the White House, because, in all his tenure there, he’s avoided the chore of serving the people.
This has become clear as his schedule over the past week or so has been scrutinized for the bearing it might have on Washington’s contagion. Jetting around to campaign rallies, schmoozing at fund-raisers, preparing for the presidential debate, putting in a ghastly showing in it, and hosting a GOP love-fest for Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden: such are the events that engross Trump most.
In the meantime, millions of Americans are out of work, running out of funds, and going hungry. Many are worried about losing their homes and access to medical care, even as winter comes on and the virus lingers and spreads. Businesses are folding, wildfires rage, and the bright possibilities of vibrant, solvent cities have evaporated. Cities like New York and Chicago, which represent some of the nation’s greatest concentrations of human and real capital, are barely holding together. Some vast piles of money that Congress set aside to help with these problems remain unspent or were spent improperly, attesting to Mr Trump’s ineptitude and indifference when he’s taxed with helping anyone but himself.
Under Donald Trump, the White House has become an empty shell. While he receives Cadillac treatment at Walter Reed, Americans can’t help but notice how little Trump and his ilk care about them.
Image: Currier & Ives print of the White House (1877), from this source.
Written at 9:00am. Americans woke to the news that Donald and Melania Trump have both tested positive for COVID-19. We are told they are isolating at the White House. Their illness follows that of staffer Hope Hicks, whose positivity was being reported late last night. Given the president’s cavalier attitude toward protective measures and his persistence in bringing unmasked people together in numbers, it was perhaps only a matter of time before he contracted the disease. Ronna McDaniel, the head of the Republican National Committee, also tested positive for the virus on Wednesday.
The stock market is falling, pundits are jabbering, and speculations about the outlook for Trump and the US itself are multiplying. Trump could end up with a very mild case of COVID and recover quickly; he could get very sick and die. He could be afflicted in a way that makes it unclear whether he is capable of governing. It’s even possible his illness is fake news.
In the meantime, we are brushing up on the rules of presidential succession. Suddenly, vice-president Pence, who has tested negative, is in the spotlight. The vice president has the power to invoke the 25th amendment if need be. He would also become president for the remainder of Trump’s term should the latter die.
As for the election: Americans are casting their ballots, even as the consequences of Trump’s reckless inaction on COVID mount. Trump’s chances of scoring a clear honest victory over Biden were dim already. The president’s on-going efforts to subvert voting, his failure to condemn white supremacy during Tuesday’s debate, and his ever-louder claims that the election will be a hoax: these are fearful, desperate strategies. Most citizens are intent on ridding themselves of his hateful, un-American leadership. Regardless of Trump’s fate, this latest blow to national order will undoubtedly drive more voters toward Biden.
Even now, Twitter is awash with speculation over whether Trump is really sick or using illness as a gambit to stay in power. If a takeover is afoot, Americans must do all they can to stay ahead of the curve. Never has a president been less trusted.
The nation could be in great danger.
At 5:35 pm. The president has left the White House for Walter Reed Hospital. He reportedly received an antibody cocktail from Regeneron (the CEO is an old friend) earlier in the day. The drug is not yet FDA-approved. The company’s stock began trending higher in after-hours trading.
CNN is reporting that the White House knew by yesterday morning that Hicks had tested positive, yet the president flew off for a fundraiser with a hundred people in New Jersey, and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany held a briefing that afternoon without disclosing the facts to those present or herself wearing a mask. It is being reported that the president delayed making his test results public for several hours last night, in order to first notify other Republican officials. He finally tweeted about having COVID at 1am this morning.
Whether Joe Biden or Donald Trump wins will depend on which candidate’s voters are more self-motivated and organized.
The COVID epidemic has disrupted normal society. It has displaced millions of people who have moved or altered their living arrangements to be safe, to care for loved ones, or because they’re suddenly out of work or their workplaces are closed. The risk of illness has estranged Americans from one another, making ritual gatherings, including all those associated with politics, rare.
COVID-related conditions have blunted every normal, in-person aspect of political campaigning. The conventions were virtual, rallies are extinct, and stumping, whether by the two candidates or state-level surrogates, must be so highly orchestrated as to sap its momentum and energy. The face-to-face aspect of American politics has been declining for decades in favor of electioneering that is more impersonal, media-driven, and premised on masses of sociological data. COVID has pushed those trends to almost pointless extremes.
At the same time, many of us crave a politics that is more immediate, local, and personal. Only by restoring honest personal discourse will Americans forge a new political consensus, and will a new generation of leaders be empowered to govern in a more accountable, forward-looking, and effectual way.
The temporary lull in national “retail” politics invites each of us ordinary voters to fashion personally appropriate ways to further the Biden cause.
All over the US, small grass-roots efforts are coalescing to get out the vote for BIDEN, to help people vote successfully during the pandemic, and to persuade inactive, new, or disaffected voters to “86 45” and make Joe Biden POTUS 46. One of my family members, for example, is active in the newly formed We of Action Virginia. Many other such local volunteer groups are loosely organized under Indivisible. Check out this map on the Indivisible website to find a local pro-Biden group near you.
I hope you will join me in committing to elect Biden on November 3. Please check back for American Inquiry‘s election count-down posts devoted to these themes.
Making a personal plan to vote, whether in person or by mail.
Voting in a timely fashion.
Lending your talents and influence to the campaign.
Considering who voted for Trump, and why they might switch.
“Each one, reach one:” personal GOTV efforts are the surest kind.
Aspiring to turn a pink county blue.
American Inquiry will disseminate information and materials in support of Biden. More soon.
My husband and I were on a Zoom visit with our children last night. Our kids are spread across the United States. Our daughter lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and their son. Our older son, who is the middle child, and his wife live in Los Angeles. Our youngest and his wife and their two sons live in Orlando. We live in a rural area in the north Florida panhandle. Our home is in a sparsely populated area on a beautiful piece of land, nine acres in size. In other words, we, unlike our children and grandsons, do not live on top of our neighbors. We haven’t had to isolate as much as our kids, but I realized last night that we are significantly more isolated than they, during this time that I early on termed “the current unpleasantness.”
Our kids were discussing how, now that the pandemic is past the two-month mark of social distancing, they are beginning to expand their small family-unit groupings into wider “bubbles” of trusted friends who have also been isolating and whom they consider “safe” to associate with. The Californians’ expanded circle is not haphazardly arranged. Their bubble has specific quarantine rules that all members must observe to belong to the group. Our household has not expanded beyond ourselves and our two dogs. The majority of people with whom we socialize are among the CDC-identified vulnerable population and are uncomfortable spending time with those with whom they don’t reside.
It was interesting to listen to the kids talk about how so many features of life that we all took for granted when they were growing up are now unknowns, things like summer vacations, playing with friends, outdoor get-togethers, eating out, and going back to school in the fall. At least now they feel freer to associate with a wider, though tiny and carefully controlled, community. I was happy for them and proud of their ability to calmly navigate their separate ways through this unprecedented time.
Also happening out there, in the wider country, are protests—peaceful expressions of frustration which too often transition into violent expositions of rage— along with out-and-out riots more bent upon destruction than facilitating change. These actions are occurring because, once again, a white police officer killed a black man during an arrest. This particular incident took place in Minneapolis. Yet again, race is dividing the United States. I don’t know all the facts in this case, but I am certain that the facts don’t matter as much to the protesters and rioters as the truth that this type of situation has occurred too often. Tragedies such as this are less about race than about power and control. They are about having and not having. They are about fear of others and fear of outsiders—suspicion and the lack of trust between varied groups of people.
Police, in theory at least, are supposed to protect the interests of the innocent. Their very presence is designed to deter crime and injustice. But in poor communities, law enforcement has become the “predator” class. This perception automatically groups others as “prey.” It’s not a good dynamic for fostering trust and/or cooperation. I suspect this fact has exacerbated the present situation: that the very community most hurt by the viral pandemic is the same one protesting ruthless treatment at the hands of police.
All of us have become too pent-up inside. We don’t have our usual outlets of sports and our myriad outside activities. Our kids cannot go to school. Most of us can’t even gather to worship. We are told to stay home, and I believe too many people are tired of being restricted. I suspect that the numbers of those who are simply sick of what they cannot do vastly outnumber the ones who have contracted the novel corona virus.
People are more isolated from one another, suspicious of one another everywhere. The mask-wearers of the pandemic consider those who don’t cover their faces to be selfish, inconsiderate, and dangerous. People outside of our self-imposed bubbles of protection are unsafe and untrusted. People who still have employment during this time of social and economic shutdown are divided from those whose jobs have been furloughed. I suspect that too many of those waiting for their salaries to reappear will discover that they don’t, and they will become victims of yet another financial downturn.
Too many of these people will join the ranks of the invisible masses whom the employed don’t know how to help and will eventually fail to notice over time. Like the homeless, the undocumented, the ones who slip between the ever widening cracks of society, they will become more and more those whose situation is so difficult a problem to solve that society forgets about them, not out of lack of compassion but out of the guilt of helplessness. The invisible won’t be fortunate enough to find refuge inside the safe bubbles that shelter our loved ones. I fear that fear will eventually pit the prey against the prey in an ill-fated attempt to protect themselves against a predator who seems impenetrable.
All this is challenging my hope. It’s running up against my desire to believe that we are all beloved children of the same God who breathed life into being. It’s Pentecost today. Our priest reminded me this morning that God sent all of us an Advocate, in the form of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost marks the epoch when our risen Lord appeared to a gathering of his apostles and disciples and imbued them with the Holy Spirit by breathing on them.
How are communities going to allow themselves to feel protected when they fear those sent to keep them from harm? How are we to believe that we are all in this together when we are expected to isolate ourselves from everyone else? How are we supposed to be advocates for each other when we live in terror that someone whom we are afraid to trust might breathe on us? And how can we expect people to trust an authority who repressed the desperate pleas of one who whispered, “I can’t breathe”?
Linda Tysall Ricke
31 May 2020
Guest contributor Linda Tysall Ricke holds a Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction
and writes about faith and politics from her home in rural Florida.