Last week’s rally in Tulsa was microcosmic Trump; a preview of the contagion through which he’ll be dragging us till November. Lacking a single positive idea, presenting no vision to take us beyond the coronavirus crisis except to pretend it away, making no effort to heal the division wracking our country since the killing of George Floyd, it was Trump at his lowest.
His one-sided message, aimed only at people like those who attended unmasked, confirmed the needs of a nation are irrelevant to him. The role of “leader” of a diverse nation was ignored as if it were a virus. “Elected” with no experience in governance, four years later he’s learned nothing.It was a festival of grievance aimed at the embittered; not just downplaying, but mocking the disease that’s taken one-hundred-twenty-five-thousand American lives; the disease that, because of his incompetence and inattentiveness, is rising faster in the US than anywhere except Brazil.That the rally even took place confirms Trump’s pathological indifference to all but himself. Facing an enormous challenge for the first time in his life, with no one to bail him out, requiring tough and untiring leadership, he’s waving the white flag, running down-ramp as fast as his bone spurs can carry him. Rather than working harder, calling upon the best of our nation, championing the need for short-term suffering for the greater good, he chose to lie and blame and move on.The two-thirds-empty arena was filled with Trump’s signature race-baiting, fear-mongering, and outright lies. Protestors kept thousands from entering the arena, he explained, which Tulsa police denied. If Joe Biden wins, he warned, “bad hombres” will rape your women; he’ll take your guns (Really? Still?) and murder newborns. Never comfortable around strong women, he attacked Latina and Muslim Congresswomen. They hate your way of life, he prompted, to boos on que. But they cheered when he held a glass of water with one hand. The bar, it is low.It was boilerplate stuff, his go-to demagoguery. Downplaying the virus, on the other hand, is something far worse. Trump’s pretense is killing people and he doesn’t care, which makes it satanic. Ironically, his future victims will disproportionately be his most loyal and indoctrinated supporters, as it’s they who accept the lie. We praise the sacrifices of our brave troops, they weep, but don’t ask us to wear masks.Who could have imagined a “president” of the United States, a job formerly considered leadership of the free world, facing the ravages of a deadly pandemic, would tell people to ignore it, ridiculing the only activities known to slow it down? Implying wearing masks signifies disloyalty? Demanding, overtly, that his devotees disregard their and their loved-ones’ health in order to prove their love, and seeing them do it? But there it is: not-so-great-again America.Testing should slow down, said Trump, because it makes him look bad. Never mind that it’s indispensable to getting back to normal. (If we stop checking documents, will illegal immigration end? What about pregnancy tests?) After his mouthpieces pretended he was kidding, he said he doesn’t kid.
Either way, he’s curtailing funding for testing in several states, including Texas, where cases are exploding upward almost as fast as his disapproval rating. Senators have uncovered fourteen-billion unspent dollars intended by Congress to pay for testing. Trump has even ordered cutbacks on coronavirus research. And, like everything else Covid, we’ve just learned he lied about ventilators, too.It’s as if he WANTS his supporters to die. Seeing them obediently packing themselves together, submissively accepting his mockery of those who wish to protect themselves and others, is astonishing. It’s Jonestown, from sea-to-shining-sea. Are Trumpists really willing to die for a lie from the most damaged man ever to occupy the Oval Office, or are they so Foxotrumpified they can’t recognize what they’re being told to do, and why? It’s dystopia. It’s unimaginable: sardined believers, cheering their own ignorance. Ave Trumpum, morituri te salutant.Because of Trump, America leads the world in failure to control the virus, which, given his obvious unsuitability for the job, was inevitable. The work was too hard for him, doing right too unfamiliar. Best to declare victory and go rallying.As the EU considers banning travel from here, Trump’s America has become an international pariah. Mystified and worried by our rapid fall from respectability, the world now sees us as undesirables. Trump’s scarlet hat is our nation’s scarlet letter.