Historic deflection points are easiest to identify later, frequently much later. Even so, Donald Trump’s positive coronavirus test (and subsequent hospitalization) is starting to look very much like a deflection point, and one that does not augur well for the president.
For one thing, Trump’s diagnosis hasn’t noticeably helped his image, and that looks strange from where I’m sitting, specifically in England. When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized with Covid-19 in early April, it significantly (if temporarily) boosted his flagging popularity. Trump seems to be no getting no such boost. If anything, he’s more unpopular now than ever.
Part of the reason, I think, is Trump doesn’t know how to play it. This is a vestige of his malignant narcissism. The story goes that another malignant narcissist, Saddam Hussein, personally murdered an advisor with a pistol who suggested he fake his own death as a ploy to fool the government of Iran. Such “displays of weakness” are anathema to people like Saddam and Trump.
Trump could go for the sympathy vote by enhancing his poor health and showing he’s a brave but humble fighter, like Boris Johnson did, but instead he insists on going on the air and using his tired, overworked hyperbole to emphasize how great he’s feeling and to exaggerate his prospects for recovery. Good. As Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.”
Trump’s battle with COVID-19 will probably be fraught with periods of unbelievable discomfort and illness and may leave him with lifelong crippling disabilities. It may even kill him. It’s important for us to note, however, that the statistics are not as grim as many people think. Statically Trump will probably survive. The death rate for people with COVID-19 with significant comorbidities such as obesity and poor general health is still low by casino standards, lower in fact than five percent. And with the very best medical attention at his disposal 24 hours a day, the irony that socialized medicine will be there to save the life of a man like Trump who only paid anywhere from nothing to $750 in taxes is hard to resist.
But the Trump who will probably survive will not be the Trump able to adequately fight an election. At a time when his prospects for re-election were already grim, Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis is a body blow from which it is unlikely he will ever recover.
There are other ironies to consider too. Several attendees at the White House Rose Garden announcement of Amy Coney Barrett’s SCOTUS nomination have tested positive for coronavirus. Two of them, Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, are Republican Senators. In their arrogance Republicans, in one staggeringly stupid super spreader event, where attendees hugged and kissed and many refused to wear masks, may have thus lost their prospect to successfully confirm Judge Barrett. The Republican margin in the Senate was a slim one, too slim to risk losing any votes. With stupidity and hubris very much in their camp, Republicans found a way to lose their nominee, possibly forever.
Another irony is, if Trump should die, the post office has been so deeply crippled that Republicans may not have time to get out reprinted ballots. So Joe Biden may very well win the November election by default, if the opposition fails to show up.
The worst of it for Trump, of course, is he’s left looking like a fool, even to his embarrassed base. A tiny virus he once called a hoax and promised would go away “like a miracle” has defeated him. He wasn’t, to perpetuate the idiotic myth, “man enough” to stand up to it. He is now supine and defeated by a pathogen one thousand times smaller than a grain of rice. Trump could have once used the virus as a pole vault into re-election. But because he is a fool it made a further fool of him.
Let’s not be fools like Trump. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Observe strict social distancing protocols. Your mask doesn’t mean it’s safe to come closer to people. Stay at least six feet apart. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.