It’s been a tumultuous week of scandal, chaos and criticism in the Trump White House. It’s a week which has sent staff and spin doctors scrambling to portray the President in a positive light following his hospitalisation with Coronavirus, the New York Times’ damning exposé on his tax returns and a controversial debate performance.
However, with less than a month left till election day, will be this enough to defeat the Republicans or will Trump bounce back from this week of scandal, as he has surprisingly done several times before?
The October Surprise: damnation or elevation?
Ever since Henry Kissinger declared that “Peace is at hand” in Vietnam, during the 1972 election, a key event in US elections has been the “October surprise”. This is an unforeseen event which often is instrumental in producing a victorious candidate.
Some pointed to the NYT’s recent feature on Trump’s tax returns, which revealed that the President only paid $750 in federal taxes in 2016 and 2017, as Trump’s “October surprise” that would lose him the election to former Vice-President, Joe Biden. But despite widespread outcry across the political spectrum, Trump’s tax returns failed to make a significant dent in the President’s popularity due to the seeming infallible cult of personality Trump has built around himself.
This cult of personality is the reason why he has been able to survive so many scandals and gaffes that would have caused any other President to resign in disgrace.
Indeed, many of Trump’s scandals have furthered his far right cause and further entrenched both his supporters and detractors in a “culture war” which has played out over Twitter, Facebook, and in the mainstream media, leaving many voters disillusioned with politics. Despite its shocking revelations, the tax returns exposé was never the silver bullet that “centrist” commentators decried it to be because politics has long moved past ideals like civility and honour and has, instead, descended into the dystopian nightmare we have been living for the past four years. This brings us to the current White House crisis that is currently dominating both British and American airwaves: the President’s contraction of Covid-19.
All the President’s (positive) Men
On October 2nd, Trump tweeted to confirm that he and his wife Melania had tested positive for Covid-19 and were quarantining immediately. Initial reports pointed to an event held on September 26th, to announce the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, as the potential source of the outbreak, due to the Administrations blatant disregard for personal safety and refusal to enforce social distancing measures. Following the outbreak, Trump was hospitalised on the afternoon of October 2nd as a “precautionary measure” despite rumours suggesting that the President’s condition was much worse than reported. During a routine Press Briefing, Dr Sean Conley refused to comment on whether or not the President had received supplementary oxygen, once again showing the administration’s contempt for truth and transparency.
Since the ‘superspreader’ event, at least 36 known individuals who were in close proximity to the President have tested positive for the virus, including the First Lady, Senior Counselor Hope Hicks, White Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and Admiral Charles Ray. The scale of an outbreak at the heart of government proves the danger that Covid poses to society, however Trump’s refusal to acknowledge its dangers, despite suffering from it himself, is what could potentially lose him the election.
Biden vs Trump, Science vs Lunacy
On November 3rd 2020 America will go to the polls to decide who will be the next President of the United States. Trump’s dismissal of the threat that has killed over 200,000 Americans, with many more projected losses, should lose him the election. The POTUS’s contraction of Covid could prove to be a turning point in his Presidency as his downplaying of the dangers of the virus has seemingly enraged many Americans, including some in his own base. The catastrophic death toll has led to even more questioning of Trump’s competency as many Americans look for answers for the preventable loss of their loved ones.
That being said, the aforementioned culture war could provide grounds for another Trump-Pence victory, due to the mobilization of the “Christian right” against masks, vaccines and even the very existence of the virus itself.
Coronavirus could truly be the deciding factor in this election. Trump’s return to the White House on October 5th provoked bewilderment and anger from many as the President tweeted out “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” This tweet proves Trump’s detachment from reality and is once again more proof of why he is unfit for office. To many survivors of Covid-19, this tweet reads as a slap in the face. It exemplifies that Trump’s pursuit of “ideology” over rational thought and science is what will lose him the election.
Polls and anecdotal evidence so far indicate that Joe Biden’s measured response to the virus is more popular with Americans because he is doing what the President should be doing in a crisis. This is in stark contrast to Trump’s response as he has endangered the lives of his staff, family and citizens, whilst his denial of the virus’ seriousness is evidently losing him support with the swing voters that he needs in order to win a second term in the White House.
It has been over 2 weeks since the exposé on Trump’s tax returns and at the time of writing it has only been 1 week since the President was released from Hospital. In that time, his actions have led to questions surrounding his mental state, his physical health, and there are even rumours alleging that his medical team are deliberately concealing his condition from the American public in order to preserve the image of a “strong” leader.
With these crises in mind, it is increasingly clear that for the good of the union and the world stage Trump must be voted out of office on November 3rd. perhaps the Covid crisis could be the final nail in the coffin for this far-right, borderline authoritarian administration. Joe Biden is far from the best candidate the Democratic Party has ever fielded, however when faced with the choice between a belief in science and a dogmatic practitioner of lunacy, science must always prevail.