There are many overlooked ironies for people who both believe in God (and the extra-Biblical notion of “family values” that typically comes with that belief) and support Donald Trump. Apart from their electing a thrice married, twice divorced man who cheated on every one of his wives, including the current one, has unprotected sex with porn stars and prostitutes, has paid for at least eight abortions and has never cracked opened the Bible, let alone read it, they continue to insist that he is one of them. There is no point arguing with such entrenched denialism. It is what it is, to coin a phrase.
But even the faithful ought to understand what Kamala Harris alluded to in her brilliant speech ahead of night four of the Republican National Conventionand as the “reality that is completely absent from this week’s Republican National Convention.” That absent reality is Trump’s inability to recognize, let alone empathize with, the victims of COVID-19.
After all, nobody loves a miracle more than the religious, and Donald Trump was handed a twin miracle of re-election opportunities at the beginning of the year — and he blew both of them. The pandemic and the murder of George Floyd very well could have saved Trump’s failing presidency. Instead they just may bring him down.
Anyone who says that Trump would have lost his base had he done the right thing, that is, taken both the pandemic and the murder of Mr. Floyd seriously, clearly doesn’t understand the bullet-proof nature of Trump’s base. Recall that these are the same people who denounced Russia as America’s congenital enemy a mere four years ago. Today they embrace Russia because Trump does. So Trump doing a volte-face on the pandemic and George Floyd would have cost him nothing and probably gained him a second term.
Before the pandemic Trump’s base really didn’t know what to think of such things and were prepared to believe Trump, whatever he said about it. That he wound up calling the pandemic a “Democratic hoax” meant they were going to call it that. It could have just as easily been the other way around.
Whatever choice Trump made his base was safe. He didn’t need to pander to them, what he needed was to pander to the fence sitters. He could have scooped them up because many of them were still available for the scooping. All he had to do was roll up his sleeves and get ahead of the best that Europe and Asia were doing in response to the pandemic and beat them at their own game. He already had Obama’s 69 page pandemic response playbook. He could have taken credit for its contents, just like he took credit for Obama’s economy.
The murder of George Floyd was even easier. All Trump had to do was condemn his murder, sign a toothless executive order and denounce police violence against people of color. There’s very little actual work involved in that. And I think you can trust me on this one: Trump’s base would have been just fine with it. Vladimir Putin, after all.
There are two reasons why Trump didn’t do any of this. Those two reasons are because he is both lazy and stupid. His laziness meant he was inevitably going to take the path of least resistance, whatever that was. After all, you don’t really have to do any actual work to stop a hoax except to declare it one. And he was stupid because he missed what many of the religious in his base would have termed a Godsend. The pandemic could have made him look like a hero.
Imagine the boasts Trump could have proclaimed had he beat South Korea and Germany and New Zealand and Iceland at their own games. Imagine the endless bragging he could have done at the RNC. Instead, the European Union, with a larger population than the United States, averages 77 deaths a day, while the United States averages over a thousand. Instead, Trump gave a rambling, barely coherent, rancid speech on the final night, replete with his usual boneheaded mispronunciations (Waldorf instead of walled-off, resilience in place of reliance, etc) and a putrid abuse of jingoistic fireworks and songs, one of which that will no doubt have the estate of Leonard Cohen sending cease and desist orders very soon.
Of course, the fireworks alone at the end of the speech were probably worth a hundred thousand votes. Nothing quite hypnotises the weak minded like fire. That his illegal use of the White House and the Washington monument as backdrops makes this “law and order” president look like a hypocrite is lost on the fire-fascinated weak of mind. All of which is to say we must never become complacent: we can still lose this election.
There are a million reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States, this has been another one. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.