Like most Americans, I’ve looked on in horror as the COVID explosion in the White House and Trump campaign staff expands, and the national reality TV show has transformed into “Walter Reed Follies.” I’m waiting for the grisly stats to show just how much his maskless rallies will amplify the spread of a disease we never fully got under control.
But let’s be honest; like me, the first question most observers have asked after learning that Donald Trump had been diagnosed with COVID was, “What took so long?”
I don’t mean that flippantly or casually. For months, the president, his entourage, and his campaign staffers—to say nothing of those attending his rallies and fundraising events—have been largely maskless. Social distancing was more in the breach than the observation. Both Trump’s RNC nomination speech on the South Lawn of the White House and the coronation ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett looked like any pre-COVID D.C. gathering: chummy, close, and collegial, full of handshakes and hugs. His behavior made his eventual infection with COVID a matter of time. His devil’s luck ran out last week.
Now that Trump has finally fallen prey to the disease that he downplayed for so long, his followers want America to weep for the suffering of their Dear Leader. They’re practically demanding our thoughts and prayers, but I hope they’re ready to wait in line a bit; there are seven million Americans more deserving of our empathy and our compassion—COVID victims who got sick largely because this man deliberately deceived the country about this plague, to say nothing of the families and friends of the 205,000 who have died to date.
There’s a certain grim irony in seeing the leader of a mass movement who denied the danger of COVID publicly while admitting it privately to Bob Woodward finding himself infected. His political acolytes followed his lead in reopening institutions too soon, and his followers scorned masks as a libtard cuckspiracy to deprive Americans of their freedumb.
They nodded while he falsely claimed that hydroxychloroquine was a miracle cure, to say nothing of his ludicrous diversion into shooting up Lysol or jamming a UV light up your ass. It hard to feel the pain of a president who’s pondered the idea of “saving” America through a herd immunity approach that would sacrifice literally millions of American lives.
President Superspreader and those closest to him are feeling the pain of his reckless, moronic decisions. The country has suffered unimaginable loss because of his political goals; all the failure, corruption, and malfeasance was about winning in November, not protecting Americans. His staff and members of his administration and his crew of Senate suck-ups are culpable parties. Ironically, they still all think they can get away with it because the reality distortion of Trumpism is a powerful normative force in American politics.
There’s a problem, though.
You know what doesn’t give a shit Trump’s media mojo and his Twitter feed? COVID.
COVID doesn’t watch Fox. It’s not a member of TrumpTrain2020 Facebook groups where memes of Barack and Hillary’s impending arrest and imprisonment for crimes against MAGA are moments away. The virus doesn’t give a damn what Sean or Tucker or Laura or the Friendly Friends at Fox & Friends vomit out to the Trumpentariat. It doesn’t follow QAnon drops or Ben Shapiro’s “devastating” lib-ownage or Dan Bingbongo’s spittle-flecked, vein-popping webcam ranting.
The virus does what it does; it replicates. It exploits gaps, natural and policy. It finds weak spots in our defenses, both biological and managerial. It kills without mercy.
For nine long months, an entire online infrastructure of Trump sycophants told Americans pretty lies to support the Maximum Leader. Like so much of Trumpism, their magical thinking was a deadly distraction from real and pressing issues. The performative ritual of Owning The Libs was more important than American lives. They defended every utterance from Trump’s lie hole. They trumpeted every promise of a false cure or an instant vaccine. They lied over and over about the contagious nature of COVID, its medical effects, and its fatality rate, all to protect Trump.
They are collaborators with a president who killed more Americans than anyone besides Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.
Grassroots Trumpism is a cult of personality informed by an embrace of aggressive dumbfuckery and oppositional defiant disorder masquerading as patriotic fervor. The “respectable Trumpism” (the apotheosis of oxymorons, there) of the writers at National Review, The Federalist, and even Fox News knew better from the start. These people weren’t stupid; they just know their clicks depend on Trump’s favor, and they can’t speak against even his most dangerous lies now.
Trump’s more grubby and lunatic media cultists—Breitbart, Gateway Pundit, Glenn Beck, Infowars, OANN, and Newsmax—are happy to keep the conspiracy teat full of poison for their credulous audience to suck up. “It’s a Chinese bioweapon!” “Trump is too masculine for this virus!” “No one dies!” “Masks kill!”
Watching their agony this weekend as the Dear Leader was stricken with COVID wasn’t simply an exercise in seeing their hero hors de combat; they know they’ve been a part of the spread of this disease and Trump’s infection is unspinnably terrible for them.
All their Trumpian political predicates—that Trump is immune to consequence and accountability for his actions, that COVID is a mild flu that will soon disappear, and that the pandemic is overhyped by a partisan media—have always been lies.
They’re also recognizing that this White House, from the president down to spokesdroid Kaleigh Von Munchausen, doesn’t have a shred of credibility with the press or the American people. Trump’s doctors telling clumsy lies outside Walter Reed was the icing on the cake of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ terrible, horrible, no-good week, and no one is fooled by clunky video messages or Ivanka Trump’s staged “RELENTLESS” tweet.
Of course, they’re falling back to the greatest-hits of Trumpism—phony outrage, and attacks on the media.
The fuck-your-feelings, Hillary-has-Parkinson’s-Disease crowd of Trump social media warriors have become stern enforcers of online decency. They’re simply shocked—shocked, I tell you—that a president who has poured his boundless reservoir of contempt and cruelty on Gold Star families, POWS, minorities of every stripe, and the victims of police brutality isn’t being universally adored for his courage in the face of COVID.
I like presidents who weren’t infected, OK?
They can’t admit that Trump got COVID the old-fashioned way—by being a reckless, irresponsible, and utterly callous narcissistic dimwit willing to infect his family, his staff, his campaign, his followers, and damn near anyone else in order to gain even momentary political advantage. Trump supporters hoping to wage a war of Twitter shaming have come to the wrong place. This is a president who has never expressed a single moment of genuine sympathy for the families of over 205,000 dead Americans. The lack of pity is well-deserved.
Even his most fervent media defenders were utterly shocked today when Trump forced Secret Service agents to mount up into up-armored Suburbans for a quick ride around Walter Reed so he could wave to his followers. Trump is a low man willing to infect the men and women who protect his life for a gimcrack photo op, and everyone saw it for what it was; a pathetic stunt of a politically crashed-out narcissist.
His White House isn’t fighting a national security crisis, it is the national security crisis with large numbers of unreported cases sweeping the staff, and Jarvanka making a power play against Mark Meadows after he made the mistake of speaking the truth about Trump’s condition.
Even before Trump tested positive, his campaign was deep in the red, out of ideas and out of rabbits to pull from their red MAGA hats. Brad Parscale is a future COPS episode in the making. Bill Stepien is sidelined with COVID. Jason “Dr. Love” Miller is a public disgrace. There’s no there, there. Maybe Steve Bannon can come back to take the helm… oh. Wait.
They’re off the air in key states and their own polling shows what the rest of the political world is also witnessing: a collapse of their numbers with seniors, white non-college voters, and veterans. The Senate Republican majority is teetering on oblivion—and not just because several members are down with the virus, potentially throwing a wrench in their plans to rush through Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation.
Trump’s cavalier handling of COVID came with a price tag, and that price tag is a trip to Walter Reed. Still, I truly do not want Donald Trump to die of COVID. That would be the easy way out.
It would deprive America of being able to deliver a crushing defeat to him and his crapulous movement on Election Day, and then the schadenfreude of enjoying his slow descent into humiliating poverty and ignominy.