By Carlton Joseph
Last Monday, United States President Donald Trump decided to leave the hospital to which he was admitted on Friday, and have a motorcade from one entrance of the building to another, using his “illness” as a political campaign rally and photo op, while putting his supporters at risk of catching and spreading the COVID-19 virus.. During his first days at the hospital, many people who called in on radio shows, said that they did not believe that Trump was infected with the COVID-19 virus, as was reported, and that his illness was a hoax. The doctors who came before the television cameras and gave reports on his “progress” were themselves not very believable, making the hoax theory viable, and his motorcade in front of the hospital raised doubts of his COVID-19 illness.
No person has recovered from this virus this quickly, leaving me; and many others to believe that it was all a political stunt to gain sympathy, keep the national focus on him, and hopefully make people forget his disgusting performance during last week’s debate. If , however, this was a political stunt, it demonstrates his callous disregard for his own health and the health of Americans. It demonstrates that he is a pathological liar who uses his power to make others lie for him.
This petulant idiotic stunt has created other economic costs such as: the need for contact tracing for all persons suspected of being in contact with Trump since his rally in Wisconsin, security personnel along the motorcade, people without masks at the motorcade, the driver of his car and other security personnel around him.
This country, where about 44 million people have no health insurance, and another 38 million with inadequate health insurance, allows the president to waste billions on his security and a border wall. This narcissist is certainly not fit to be president of the most powerful country on earth.
Trump has been running a campaign that is premised on the idea that he may not win or will not win, if all the votes are counted. His strategy is never to concede. He may win, he may lose, but under no circumstances will he concede this election.
Although he voted by mail, during the debates he delegitimized voting by mail, claiming that it was fraudulent. He later tweeted: “Because of the new and unprecedented massive amount of unsolicited ballots which will be sent to ‘voters’, or wherever, this year, the Nov 3rd Election result may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED, which is what some want.” It’s what he and his followers want because there is no law to decide the winner. The loser’s concession is the way US elections are concluded.
Trump’s presidency has revealed that the country does not have laws for some of the most important issues involving the presidency. When the nation thought that it was law that presidential candidates release their tax returns, we found out it was just a norm. He issued 36 commutations; 31 of which have had a personal or political connection to him. He commuted the 40-month sentence of Roger Stone, a longtime political ally, motivating Senator Mitt Romney to tweet, “Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”
Trump has been violating norms of presidential behavior and ethics ever since he assumed the office. He has shown contempt for Congress by challenging every congressional subpoena, revealing the impotence of Congress, while demonstrating an unprecedented form of executive privilege. He refused to set aside his business interest, questioned the legitimacy of the judges, accused the FBI of treason, and pressured NATO allies while embracing Russia, North Korea and white supremacists.
In their book, How Democracy Dies, Levitsky and Ziblatt warn of how dangerous norm breaking can be. While ignoring precedent is lawful, the authors warn, “All successful democracies rely on informal rules that, though not found in the constitution or any laws, are widely known and respected. In the case of American democracy, this has been vital.” I am certain that Trump did not read this book, and his sentiments are for dictators. He has planted the seeds for dictatorship; and fundamentally changed the presidency. My opinion is that if this democracy survives, Americans will have to demand that laws be instituted. We cannot trust norms in the same way we did before.
Unlike any other president, Trump does not see himself as leader of the country, but as the leader of the extreme right and white supremacist minority factions of the country. He has sown doubts about the institutions that serve as a check on presidential power: the news media, the independent judiciary, and federal law enforcement.
His son, Trump Jr. is claiming that the radical left are laying the groundwork to steal the election from his father, and that they cannot let that happen, and that they need every able-bodied man, woman to join Army for Trump’s election security operation. Reports indicate that the Republican National Committee (RNC) organized what it called a Ballot Security Task Force composed of a lot of off-duty law enforcement officers, sheriffs wearing guns, talking into radios, wearing ballot security armbands, located around minority polling places.
The FBI recently issued an internal intelligence report warning of an imminent “violent extremist threat” posed by far-right militias, including white supremacists. Trump has embraced them and they are now selling T-shirts with the president’s words: “stand back and stand by.” Also, the Guardian newspaper has revealed pro-Trump right-wing activists in Oregon plotted to violently attack protesters in Portland and even discussed carrying out political assassinations.
America is facing an existential crisis because the American system of government, especially pertaining to the presidency, is almost lawless. It hinges on constitutional checks and balances but mostly on norms and expectations. Trump has purposely violated every norm and law and has undermined peoples’ faith in the justice system. Although the justice department reports to him, he has attacked the “deep state justice department” alluding to a conspiracy theory about cabals secretly manipulating the US government for nefarious purposes.
On Monday he discharged himself from the hospital, because he was concerned that the sight of him being hospitalized makes him look weak, and claimed: “I stood out front. I led. Nobody that’s a leader would not do what I did. And I know there’s a risk, there’s a danger, but that’s ok. And now I’m better, and maybe I’m immune. I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives. Get out there. Be careful. We have the best medicines in the world.” He had eleven doctors and access to every therapy that was available; the average insured American is allowed to visit the doctor twice a year. Is this the leader of the free world? Is he telling us he purposely allowed himself to be infected?
This American President has lied continuously for the past four years; he has undermined the country’s democratic institutions, alienated her allies, encouraged racial discord and sowed distrust of the electoral system. Worst, he has failed to acknowledge the severity of COVID-19; as a result over 200,100 deaths have been recorded. Yet he wants Americans to give him another four years. More importantly, he refuses to say that he will concede the election if he loses. The stage is set; Trump is determined to hold on to power. Will the Congress, the Military, and the people allow him to remain as President, if he loses?