COVID-19 is surging across the United States, but the only thing this president seems to care about is the slow decay of his election prospects.
“Donald Trump knows he’s losing,” Politico reported on Sunday. Campaign advisers “have urged him to stop the public displays of self-pity,” reports The Washington Post. “Republican Voters Against Trump expects to have a $10 million budget to target voters online,” reports NBC News. “PRESIDENT TRUMP MAY LOSE THIS ELECTION” blared the opening chryon for Tucker Carlson’s Thursday night show on Fox News.
Trump isn’t the only one feeling bleak about his political future. “GOP operatives are for the first time raising the possibility that @realDonaldTrump could drop out of the race if his poll numbers don’t rebound,” Fox Business Network correspondent Charles Gasparino tweeted on Sunday. “Over the weekend I spoke to a sample of major players; one described Trump’s current psyche as ‘fragile.’”
Fragile, you say? Poor guy. What we really need to be talking about is the fragile state of this nation after Trump’s calamitous COVID-19 response.
On Sunday, the United States saw more than 40,000 new infections amid this record surge, with the national total now surpassing 2.5 million. The death toll has surpassed 125,000 souls, a number the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says is almost certainly low.
Harris County, Texas, the densely populated home to most of Houston, is now experiencing more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per day. Texas Medical Center, a vast collection of medical facilities in downtown Houston, has reached baseline ICU capacity under the wave of new cases, and that wave is not close to the crest point. Elective surgeries have been restricted to open up hospital beds, and NGR Stadium — home of the NFL’s Houston Texans — is being prepped to take overflow COVID patients.
“The [Texas Medical Center] institutions — which together constitute the world’s largest medical complex — reported Thursday that their base intensive care capacity had hit 100 percent for the first time during the pandemic,” reports the Houston Chronicle, “and was on pace to exceed an ‘unsustainable surge capacity’ of intensive care beds by July 6.”
From Friday to Sunday, Florida endured more than 8,000 new cases a day. There were 9,585 on Saturday, and 8,530 on Sunday. The median age of those newly infected with COVID is now 36. As with Houston, hospitals in parts of Florida most affected by this long continuation of the pandemic’s first wave are reaching capacity. “Officials have done little so far to halt public interactions,” reports The New York Times.
Texas and Florida led the way in the Trump-championed charge to “Reopen Now” several weeks ago, and now they, along with Arizona, have become COVID’s newest epicenters. Trump won all three of these so-called “Sun Belt” states in 2016, and if he loses any one of them in November, his odds of winning re-election melt and bubble like butter on a hot skillet.
Trump’s reaction to this latest iteration of the coronavirus pandemic? On Sunday, he had Vice President Mike Pence show up at a Dallas megachurch alongside the useless Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, the bewildering Housing Secretary Ben Carson, and the perennially terrible GOP Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
Thousands of maskless devotees crowded the six-block megachurch campus to enjoy the maskless singing of a 100-person choir. On Friday, Abbott put the brakes on his state’s reopening surge but exempted churches from the new orders. All across the country, churches have become epicenters for new COVID outbreaks, but Trump — leery of alienating one of the last loyal constituencies he has left — has thus far refused to curtail mass gatherings at houses of worship.
On his own, Trump continues to screech about his Fox News ratings as an antidote for the grim poll numbers crowding around his campaign. Saturday saw him retweet a video of some golf cart fascist in Florida chanting “white power!” On Thursday, he did a “town hall” with Sean Hannity that saw no questions about the COVID spike, the national COVID death toll, or his cratering poll numbers or the police murder of George Floyd. The hardest question he got was, “What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?”
I’d be hard-pressed to answer that, as well.
Fox and Hannity, of course, remain Trump’s safe space during this ongoing calamity. This, too, has gotten people killed. “Those who relied on Fox or, say, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, came to believe that vitamin C was a possible remedy, that the Chinese government created the virus in a lab, and that government health agencies were exaggerating the dangers in the hopes of damaging Trump politically,” reads a Washington Post report on a pandemic news viewership survey taken by the Harvard Kennedy School.
“The country is not ‘reopening’ because the pandemic is finished, or because scientists and medical professionals say it is safe,” I wrote on May 21, on the doorstep of the Memorial Day holiday that lies at the root of this COVID surge. “We are ‘reopening’ because in these United States, the people have always come a distant second to profit.”
It is abundantly clear that, for this president, the health and survival of the people also come a distant second to his electioneering.
Trump’s re-election prospects seem fragile at present, but we will only know for sure about that if we actually have an election. Our democracy, as COVID has demonstrated, is pretty damn fragile, too.