COMMENT | Anyone who reads my column understands that I rarely talk about US or international politics because there is more than enough going on here, which we can do something about, instead of engaging in the horse manure US culture war that some Malaysians idiotically subscribe to. When it was reported that US President Donald Trump tested positive for Covid-19, my inbox was flooded with emails and texts that had a lot of faux sympathies. I have no idea why some folks – especially non-US citizens – have this need to show any kind of sympathy for this particular American president.
Twitter has banned tweets wishing for the president's death, but of course, it did not extend the same courtesy to political operatives who were hounded and threatened with death and rape by the president’s rabid followers after one of his numerous, often racist, attacks on them. The GOP (Republican Party) has been addled by Trumpism and the president has only himself and his sycophants to blame for how this has infected the American polity and the inner circle of presidential power.
As someone who has had contact with various GOP and Democratic administrations over the decades, I have not witnessed the intentional sabotage of institutions as what Trump has done, aided by his lackeys in the GOP. The demonisation of institutionalists, the mockery of evidence-based solutions, the scapegoating of minorities, but most importantly, the total disregard of the health and safety of his base, is demonstrative that the cult of Trump is a danger to the fragile fabric of the republic.
Just after Trump tested positive, Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler tweeted this, “Remember: China gave this virus to our President @realDonaldTrump and First Lady @FLOTUS. WE MUST HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.” CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza wrote, “Why not suggest that China not only didn't do enough to limit the spread of the disease in the spring but also 'gave this virus' to Trump? After all, if Trump's takeover and transformation of the Republican Party over the past five years has proven anything, it's that there is no 'too far' when it comes to the president's most ardent backers. Nothing too outlandish, nothing too over-the-top. And as for facts? Well, those are for other people.”
Already the propagandists are either feeding conspiracy theories or attempting to blame China - among others - for what is essentially a health safety meltdown brought upon by the incompetence, maliciousness and total disregard of public safety by the Trump administration. In his debate with Democratic candidate Joe Biden, Trump continued the propaganda that this was all China’s fault - "It's China's fault, it should never have happened."
The GOP is already laying the groundwork to make this about China, with US congressperson Mark Walker, ranking Republican member on the House Subcommittee for Intelligence and Counterterrorism, wondering aloud: "Is it fair to make the assessment that China has now officially interfered with our election?"
If anything, I have sympathy for Americans who attempted to follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) set by state governments (the ones not enthralled by Trump) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but who were put in constant danger by rabid supporters of the president. Those Trump supporters did everything in their power to turn simple acts of communal safety, like mask-wearing, into something that was an extension of the dumb culture war that the political establishment in America has found profitable.
Consider that before he tested positive, Trump was going to hold a rally – where he would have no doubt mocked mask-wearing – in a nation where Covid-19 numbers were rising and hospital wards were so overcrowded that people had to be treated in the corridors. Keep in mind that this is a president who was at war with his own health experts and at one point stunningly claimed that he knew more about science than his own experts. This is a president and his coterie who embraced the “demon sperm doctor” because she advocated for the use of the unproven hydroxychloroquine drug to treat Covid-19.
This is a president who, according to American journalist Bob Woodward, knew the dangers of the virus but downplayed it to the American people, whom he took an oath to protect. This is a president who was not concerned about contracting the virus, even though it is highly contagious and the lives of the people around him could be in danger. Remember prominent Trump-backer Herman Cain who attended Trump's Tulsa rally - and died from Covid-19 soon after - tweeted this before the rally: "Masks will not be mandatory for the event, which will be attended by President Trump. PEOPLE ARE FED UP!"
As reported in the press: “The surge of new cases comes just weeks after President Trump held a campaign rally in an indoor arena in Tulsa, where many of the attendees reportedly did not wear masks. The event was criticised as being unsafe and a local newspaper ran an editorial asking the president not to hold the rally. On the day of the event, it was revealed that six staffers on the Trump campaign tested positive for the coronavirus.” Meanwhile, conservatives - I hate that term because there have not been genuine conservatives in American politics for decades - are clutching their pearls that 'Dear Leader' is being mocked by his political rivals and their supporters.
Of course, when Dear Leader was mocking former secretary of state Hillary Clinton with her pneumonia scare, or mocking a disabled reporter, or mocking various political operatives, or minorities, or senators, even those from his own party, or calling the press the enemy of the people, and of course, going to war with his own appointees - all this was part of the politically-incorrect persona that was needed to 'drain the swamp'. As Andrew Sewer wrote in his percipient Atlantic article about Trump supporters: “…Trump supporters, whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomisation of modern life.”
Now, imagine how many ignorant people there have been, who took the word of their president, and like Herman Cain succumbed to the virus, but did not have the media exposure which plutocrats or politicians have to garner sympathy?
Nobody cares about them. Certainly not the president of the United States.