Behind Trump's desperate bid for a second term

Behind Trump's desperate bid for a second term


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

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November 3, 2020 is bearing down on the Donald Trump campaign like a freight train without brakes. As the day gets closer when America will decide whether to re-hire him for second term or send him packing, desperation seems to have set in in his camp. Desperate tactics to shore up his chances at the polls are becoming more sinister — dangerous even.

I believe Trump to be the chief architect of these tactics, but he is being enabled by a cabal of operatives in the Republican Party who want to ensure that he wins a second term. As these tactics become more desperate and intense, expect all kinds of distractions and chaotic activity.

But there are certain truths and realities that cannot be swept under the carpet. One of the most prominent of these is the ineptitude and the crass mismanagement that have attended the president's handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Trump has long lost any moral high ground that he should have occupied in fighting the pandemic. At the very beginning he made his calculations that his approach to it must be in tune with his election prospects in November. Nothing else seemed to matter. Thus, he made himself, and not the pandemic, the subject. It was necessary to keep the numbers down.

It was only after the virus started to spread rapidly through the population, and states like California and New York were being adversely affected and had to start lockdown procedures, that Trump initiated a White House task force to fight the virus. We have seen how that has worked out.

By the end of May, when Trump forced the reopening of the economy, the task force was virtually non-existent. It had started to fade in the minds of most Americans in any event, because people saw very early that it had descended into the theatrics of a reality television show starring one man: Trump. It had lost its credibility because its chief spokesperson, the president, was toting snake oil cures such as hydroxychloroquine and disinfectants as possible treatment modalities.

With his eyes set on his electoral prospects, Trump realised that time was not his best friend. In fact, he realised he is racing against the clock as poll after poll show him trailing his opponent, Joe Biden, in key swing states, even by double figures. So, his desperation meter is racing. His White House resorted to bypass the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by routing data on infections and deaths from hospitals from that body. The data were temporarily removed from their website but restored after howls of protest.

The intention here is clear: Suppress or otherwise sanitise the negative news going out on the pandemic so it would not look too bad on the Administration and its inept handling of the pandemic.

At the beginning, in April, the president's first impulse was to keep the numbers down, or to wish for the magical disappearance of the virus. But the virus has not disappeared, and certainly will not because a powerful president wishes it to.

What is remarkable in all this is the president's lack of appreciation of the fact that if he had gone the other way and truly put up a sensible fight against the virus, as so many countries had done, by this time he would have given Biden more than a political headache to deal with. He has failed to recognise the simple equation that if the virus is not contained, the economy on which he pins so much hope cannot be opened in time to give him a fighting chance at the polls.

Trump has more or less resigned himself to the fact that economic recovery will not work for him in November. Even now his Republican allies in Congress are battling among themselves over a Bill to keep millions of Americans from facing further dire hardships, as many will become homeless or have their homes foreclosed on if federal help does not come by the end of July.

True to his proclivities to distract attention from his own failings, Trump has resorted to another tactic — foment disturbance in cities where Democratic governors preside, send in paramilitary personnel to quell these disturbances, and thus show himself as the law and order president. This tactic is one clear out of the fascist's playbook. Trump's intention is so clear here that it hardly invites analysis. This tactic will not work; not as it did for fascists like Hitler and Mussolini of a bygone era, and Putin in today's Russia. This is still America, and people see this tactic for what it is.

In any event, in just over 90 days before the November 3 elections, people's views on Trump have largely been determined. There is nothing new that he can pluck out of the bag between now and November that will change people's minds substantially in his favour. Not even the finding of a therapy or robust vaccine against the novel coronavirus will do the trick. His Administration's incompetent and tragic response to the pandemic has reduced a strong and powerful nation to the status of a pitiable, whimpering child. At this point, people's views are largely baked in. Hundreds if not thousands would have voted by absentee or mailed-in ballots before November 3. It is in the area of vote by mail that Trump's worst fascist instincts in stealing the election — as Biden has suggested he will attempt to do — will be most seen. Between now and November 3 we will see more chaos than we have ever seen before. The president may very well resign himself and give up the fight and let fate take its natural course.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or

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