The Guardian recently made awards to the very worst “leaders” in the world during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a pretty substantial list, beginning with announcement that the UK’s Neville Chamberlin award would go to Boris Johnson, and proceeding through several others ( the “Tiger Woods award for making us feel we barely knew you” went to the whole country of Sweden, and the “Walking Dead Award for Reminding Human Beings Our Greatest Threat is One Another” to the anti-lockdown protestors in the US), before landing on the Grand Prize Winner–no surprise there–Donald Trump.
Like Boris Johnson, he ignored international warnings about the coronavirus when meaningful action could have slowed its spread. He held public rallies even while experts begged for social distancing. He’s used press conferences to attack reporters, repeat lies and push treatments that some studies now suggest may be unproven cures at the same time he’s demanded praise. He’s promoted people who don’t know what they’re doing, allowed the demotion of others who desperately do, he’s abused leaders who’ve taken responsibility for their citizens, and adamantly taken none himself. He’s talked about his TV ratings while Americans were buried in mass graves.
The only award in which he’s not competitive is one for failing to meet expectations – because nobody who’s watched Trump for five consistent minutes is surprised by this disaster at all. America outstrips the world for coronavirus infection. There have been more than 842,000 cases there. More than 46,000 Americans are dead.
Donald, you blitzed this competition. It’s your crowning achievement! Now, go put a glittering corona on your head!
And that was written before he suggested injecting disinfectants….
Trump’s incompetence and corruption are no surprise to people who follow the news, but even Americans who are charitably referred to as “low information voters” can hardly help being aware of just how badly this sad, mentally-ill buffoon is performing.
Which brings me back to my recurring, unfathomable question. Why does anyone still support him?
It’s a question I see frequently in my Facebook feed; a mystery we talk about with friends and family. The easy answer, of course, is that these are uneducated or stupid people who occupy an “alternative fact” universe. Unkind–and unhelpful– as that description is, it probably does describe the sorts of people we saw pictured with misspelled signs and AK-14s at the demonstrations protesting pandemic shutdowns. On the other hand, there are clearly some intelligent, educated people who continue to defend this horrific administration, and who continue to support this demonstrably insane President.
Some, of course, are plutocrats and other beneficiaries of fiscal favoritism who care about nothing but their own pocketbooks. What about the others?
The social science research that has been done in the wake of the 2016 election confirms a strong relationship between what scholars delicately call “racial resentment” and support for Trump.
Obviously, not every Trump voter in 2016 was a White Nationalist, but fear of being “replaced,” of losing White Christian male privilege, is really the only available explanation for the continued fidelity of those not on the “payroll” who recognize his personal deficits and abysmal performance and nevertheless still support him.
I hate the conclusion I’ve reached. I hate what it suggests about a significant percentage–fortunately not a majority–of my fellow Americans.
As the pandemic has dragged on, so many Americans are demonstrating what is best about us–compassion, charity, creativity and a recognition that we are all–all– in this together. My hope is that these are the Americans who will turn out in massive numbers to vote blue in November.
About that vote…
David Sedaris recently had the perfect rejoinder to those who respond to “vote blue no matter who” by pointing to the (undeniable) faults of those imperfect Democrats. I think he said it all:
I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”
To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.