We are not supposed to talk about this: COVID, cretins and disease contraction

Fariba Lale – Columnist

     Lockdowns necessitated by the pandemic began, for many of us, in March. I think it is fair to call that moment something of a turning point for the year, in the direction of pure, unfettered insanity. I am not sure what the deal is with this “return to normal” I keep hearing so much about, but, at this point, it is really starting to sound like a scam. And all this building up to a very normal election between two very normal candidates!

    I did not really want to open with this, but, since it feels kind of impossible to avoid, let us talk about Trump. I have no comment on whether or not it is “okay” to cyberbully the most powerful person in the country for flouting basic safety precautions in the middle of a pandemic, but I do want to talk about the effect his diagnosis already seems to be having on his chances at reelection. 

    CNN released a national poll on Oct. 6 that showed Biden with a 16-point lead over Trump. Obviously, polls are not everything, re 2016, but this kind of lead immediately following the first debate and Trump’s positive COVID test seems significant. Notably, this polling shows Biden leading Trump in terms of their perceived ability to handle the pandemic at 59 percent to 38 percent. 

    The White House’s response to Trump’s diagnosis has been weirdly difficult to follow. It seems like the preferred narrative is one where Trump, a greasy 74-year-old man, caught a virus that is potentially lethal to those within his age group and has miraculously recovered in a matter of days. 

    And it does not make my blood boil at all to see a man with limitless money and power talk about how “we” have the best medical equipment and medicines in the world, so this virus is really no big deal, when those resources are utterly inaccessible to millions of Americans who happen to not have unlimited money and power.     

    Regardless, though, this angle is a little bit difficult to digest when the guy appears to be struggling to breathe through his latest photo op, and his doctor has admitted to obfuscating information about his oxygen levels to present a more optimistic picture to the public. 

    My very professional opinion is that the situation is bad, it looks bad and it looks worse when it seems like you are hiding something. None of this inspires confidence.

    Further, seeing how quickly positive tests have spread amongst politicians and White House staff in the last week or so has been a little frightening to witness. Not to say things were not already frightening, but there is something to be said about so many highly publicized figures contracting this disease in such quick succession, especially so many months into this crisis where it would seem we should have gained some control of the situation. Again, this does not inspire confidence that the current leadership is capable of handling this pandemic.

    This is also important because it will affect how our two lovely candidates campaign. Biden’s campaign is expanding canvassing efforts this month while they have also pulled negative ads targeting the president. My personal opinion is that democratic leadership looks painfully unserious when they call Trump a fascist who presents an existential threat to life as we know it and must be stopped at all costs but then turn around and send him well wishes and prayers … but I guess that is just politics, baby. 

    They are laying it on a bit thick, though. But! It does seem to be working for them, so, I will concede. And obviously increasing voter outreach is great, especially considering how dismal it has been thus far. Honestly, all of this looks great for Biden. Combined with Trump’s rallies, a mainstay of his campaign, being disrupted, I really do not see how the gaffe machine can mess this up.

    At the same time, though, it is difficult to say for sure what the next month holds, as things still seem to be changing by the day. Regarding the coronavirus, some issues that are still up in the air are vaccine trials and what Election Day will actually look like. 

    Trump has repeatedly promised a vaccine will be made available before Nov. 3, a painfully transparent and evermore unrealistic claim. Even if the White House were able to push the FDA to this decision, I wonder how many would trust this judgment when the drug has been produced so rapidly. 

    I could easily see that backfiring. In terms of voting, my concern is not so much about the mail-in ballots themselves but more so about what will happen if election results are delayed because of the uptick in this type of voting. I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect violence on Election Day, and I can only imagine those tensions extending into the days that follow if the results are not immediately conclusive.  

Luther Abel – Columnist

  Last week, in the over-wrought soap opera that is 2020, Donald J. Trump contracted COVID-19. The response was what one would expect, with left-wing activists wishing death, hellfire and all other sorts of ill-will upon him, while pundits on the right declared this diagnosis the death knell for the President’s reelection chances. 

    As an aside: the modern left’s delight upon hearing of their adversaries’ compromised health has been particularly gross, most notably when Justice Scalia died. Never have I seen so many people line up to dance on the grave of a great person so quickly and explicitly. 

    But what about when RBG died — didn’t the Right do much the same? No, not really. When her failing health was brought up, the response was most often, “She should retire and enjoy with her family the time she has left.” But I digress.

    The question I have going forward from today, knowing that Trump is likely through the worst of his COVID bout, is, “What happens now with the disease, and how will it affect the election?” It seems to me that Trump will focus on the alleged robustness of his physical body, noting how getting COVID was not really all that bad. 

    This would be ill-advised, but he has never been one to listen to reason for more than a few seconds before Leroy Jenkins-ing off into the nearest controversy. The smart play for him is to come out of this illness contrite, acknowledging the severity of the disease and mentioning how he has changed — not too much, mind — and that he will be more gentle when speaking about the pandemic’s dangers. 

    While many see his sickness as a bad thing for his electoral prospects, I think it would allow for a natural pivot towards what I mention above. He cornered himself with the macho, “this disease ain’t got nothing on me” kind of rhetoric and action — deeply off-putting to middle-class mothers who he needs to win.     

    Being sick with such an awful virus, he may have secured a degree of sympathy from the voting public that would allow him to alter his tone on the subject without being called out for flip-floppery. 

    What I want to know going forward is what Joe Biden’s plan is. As far as we know, he has not contracted the disease, so, he must practice caution many-fold what Donald Trump now really needs to, having had it. 

    Joe Biden is not a young man, and to get COVID would surely have him recuperating for, at a minimum, a week, never mind even the required quarantine period. With the election entering its final stage, Biden will be pressed towards over-work, over-exposure and excessive travel — all of which increases his chances of contraction and a reduced immune system. 

    I do not envy Joe. The conventional thinking is that shaking hands and kissing babies wins the day. But if he were to do so, he heightens the threat to himself and the prospect of taking weeks off the campaign for convalescence would likely be disastrous. 

    For a man used to campaigning in an old-school way, he must be torn, especially with Hillary’s weak travel schedule in the Midwest contributing to her defeat. To repeat such a tepid showing in swing-states, no matter the extenuating circumstances, would be a blot on the Democratic Party into the future. 

    Joe Biden, in his bid to make the most challenging decisions as president, must make many even before Nov. 3. 

    As for COVID and Election Day itself, I am confident in the majority of people doing the right thing, and just as confidently hold that there will be a few blockheads whose actions will be crowingly applied to a wide swath of the population. 

    May we extend grace to our rivals, call out the excesses of our political bedfellows and make it through November without harming each other — either by direct action or by intentionally forgoing the use of PPE. 

Agree? Disagree? Contact me at abell@lawrence.edu and tell me why.