Fear and Loathing in the Trump White House

Just as coronavirus is no respecter of persons, it’s no respecter of spin. Donald Trump has always banked on fear and loathing as his most ardent and muscular manipulators of the naive masses. So far it has worked, at least amongst the creeps, losers and drooling cretins of his nefarious base and the raging rating whores of Fox News. But coronavirus giveth and coronavirus taketh away. Trump lost his good luck mojo. He zigged when he should’ve zagged. He bought when he should’ve shorted. “In a world of thieves,” as Hunter Thompson put it, “the only final sin is stupidity.”

Trump misjudged coronavirus exactly as a stupid man would, thinking that the usual program would work the way it’s always worked. But here’s the problem. The Trump supporter can’t continue to make America Great Again when granny just died from coronavirus. He might be able to blame Obama and the Mexicans because he can’t get a job. But what does he say about Donald Trump now, who promised that coronavirus was no worse than the flu and “everything is going to be just fine,” and granny’s funeral is tomorrow? How is he going to sustain the lie that Donald Trump really is his lord and saviour when the local bar is under quarantine?

Because they’re stupid, Trump supporters will find a way. But it will be a pale enthusiasm compared to the unbridled one they mustered in 2016. It was easy for them to blame Obama when Obama was president, a bit harder when he hasn’t been in office for more than three years and Uncle Fred is sick. The cheering will still be there, but it’s going to be muted this time, less certain, a little bit weary from a reality that is worse today than it was three and a half years ago. (Just ask Bernie Sanders how that feels.) Donald Trump is going to lose in November because he got it wrong —just in time.

Trump’s latest lie, to place the blame for the coronavirus at the feet of Obama, is pale and vague and far less powerful than it was in 2016. It’s hard to blame a man whose in-place infrastructure you gutted two years ago, one that would have been ideal for combatting this pandemic, is gone and replaced with nothing. Because Trump is stupid his language of blame is inarticulate and unspecific, and that used to be enough. He’s a busy man and doesn’t have time for details. But now it won’t do. A base that has a tradition of fealty to family will cheer with less ardour when people in that family or in their friend’s families are dead. Had he been honest with them and fought for them he would have renewed their false belief that he was their ally. Now they won’t know exactly what to make of him, and will care far less.

As bad as coronavirus is, it’s nowhere near as bad as Trump. Coronavirus can make us sick and kill some of us, but it can’t destroy the planet through global warming or involve us in a nuclear war. Given enough time — say, four more years — that’s exactly what Trump would do. It’s fashionable among the smug and certain and self-satisfied to insist that Donald Trump was going to lose in November anyway. Yeah, I remember 2016, even if they clearly don’t. But this time may really be different. Coronavirus may actually kill Trump too. Paradoxically, coronavirus may just be the best thing that ever happened to the human race.

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