Donald Trump’s presidency and his reelection are clearly jeopardized by a pandemic that he, for too long, was unwilling to admit even existed. Much has been made of the fact that the corona virus is apolitical. And, in a sense, it is. Its challenge lies in the fact that, unlike more traditional political actors, its only motivation is to mindlessly divide and to grow.
For humans, though, those mindless actions do have political consequences. In the United States, with a November presidential election looming, this viral invasion will potentially change everything. No one knows that better than Donald Trump. His mumbling efforts on his nightly “briefings” often seem more designed to minimize the political damage to himself than to help his listeners survive the pandemic.
The pandemic has become politicized largely because of Donald Trump’s particular approach to politics. The normal goal of a newly elected president back in 2017 would have been an attempt to unite the country. To be president, as Lyndon Johnson used to say, “of awl the people”. Donald Trump has never made even a pretext of governing for all the people. He has concentrated instead on his “base” of rally-going “working class” voters. The rest of the population he has ignored. His rally-going base, largely from the south and rural west, has shown remarkable loyalty.
This pandemic has been unconsciously politically selective. It struck earliest on the east and on the west coasts, areas most apt to support Democrats. Donald Trump does have a way of demanding loyalty and vindictively shunning those he thinks of as non-supportive. That may have brought about his odd attempt to demand appreciation from those Democratic governors desperately trying to get federal help. It probably is no accident that a new rival media star, Democratic Governor Cuomo of New York, has such difficulty getting federal help with desperately needed ventilators,
At this point, at the beginning of April, the states which threw their weight behind Donald Trump in the last election have remained relatively free of the virus. The governor in Alabama finally agreed to a statewide lock down to go into effect yesterday (April 4th). Missouri’s will begin on Monday. That leaves eight states without a statewide stay-in mandate (Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming). All voted in 2016 for Donald Trump (he won 58% of their combined presidential vote).
It is hardly surprising that the virus would spike first in urban areas along both coasts. A virus which had its beginning in China would logically strike along our coasts first. It is probably predictable too that interior areas with more widely scattered, largely agricultural, populations would become effected later (Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming combined have a population of just over four million).
Donald Trump, with his inept handling of the pandemic, has frustrated and alienated the high population areas that typically would deliver a majority vote to a Democratic presidential candidate. And, we are only in the beginning. The real horrors of the viral invasion are yet to come. As the virus increases its appearance in the south and in the more rural west, Donald Trump’s ineptitude and lack of preparation will really hit home. That home will be in the parts of the country he has assumed he could rely on for the 2020 election.
It all might have worked had the virus been more effectively controlled in the beginning. Instead the virus was allowed to begin its devastation on both coasts and is now moving to “Trump country”. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, Trump country has the misfortune of being the area of the country least capable of resisting contagion. Many rural hospitals have closed. The dominant Republicans have mindlessly resisted the benefits available through the Affordable Care Act. Many residents are poor and have the resulting underlying health problems that make this virus so deadly.
Donald Trump assumed that his dedicated supporters would be steadfast. They would be bolstered by the more well-off who would be inspired by a sky high stock market. He could, once more, triumphantly return to the White House. It may well be that because of a mindless virus he will be free to return to the gold tower in Manhattan next January. He no longer wishes to live there. If he is not allowed to return to the White House, he may instead find himself joining other victims of the virus, in Florida.