Trump Becoming COVID Patient #1 Restores the Pandemic as Campaign Issue #1

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The exception proves the rule: With President Donald Trump, who has denied the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic since its onset, now contracting COVID-19 and hospitalized for treatment, the pandemic is restored — properly so — as Issue #1 in this presidential campaign.

Despite his strenuous efforts to make the campaign about “law and order” or the alleged weaknesses of Democratic nominee Joe Biden, the felling of the President himself to the virus, along with numerous other Republicans — may they all recover as newly enlightened people — underscores, as nothing else could, the dominion of this vicious virus.

Until the virus is vanquished, America will flail and founder. The same can’t be said of any other issue. Thus, it is Issue #1.

This reprioritizing is all to the good and just in time, because: I fear that, with the media spotlight so fixed on Trump’s every desperate and distracting gambit to get re-elected — the most desperate and distracting being last week’s abominable “presidential” debate — the less our attention is fixed on the pandemic’s insidious corrosion of America’s economic landscape. This corrosion, going on seven months, may be irreparable.

Damage such as: The millions of human lives upended by a hemorrhaging economy — over 40 million people lost their jobs in the pandemic’s first three months — with another relief package coming from Congress still iffy. The word “upend” is used a lot these days, but are we really focusing on the upending? Many workers are now permanently unemployed, as their status goes from temporary layoff to permanently cut. Imagine the sorrow and suffering, and now panic, of those human beings, our fellow Americans.

Damage such as: Businesses, local and national, going under. Small businesses numbering 1.4 million went under in the three months ending in June, representing 13% of the 30.7 million small businesses operating nationwide. Storied brand names, too, have gone under: Brooks Brothers, the clothier to Abraham Lincoln in his presidency; J.C. Penney; Lord & Taylor; Hertz.

Damage such as: Cities and towns upended. To read of the devastation of the downtowns of our iconic cities — New York and Washington, D.C. — is chilling, out of a dystopian novel: the vacant storefronts, restaurants and hotels near-empty, the arts establishments closed, all with dismal prospects for a full comeback anytime soon, if ever.

In the ten-ring circus that is Donald Trump, are we tracking this corrosion? Apart from the human suffering, such corrosion, per experts, threatens the very viability of American capitalism itself.

Biden and the Democrats should focus laser-like on Trump’s abysmal handling of this deadly pandemic — and how, if elected, they would quell it. That a Trump campaign adviser still claims Biden wears a mask as a “prop” — even as his boss languished in the hospital with COVID-19 — is laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. In that abominable “presidential” debate, Trump again mocked Biden for his mask-wearing; the irony is too subtle for Trump to comprehend he was felled by that “Democratic hoax.” In that mess of a debate, Biden did manage to nail it: Referring to Trump’s response to the horrendous rates of infection and death, “It is what it is,” said Biden: “It is what it is because you are who you are. That’s why it is. The President has no plan.”

Also: That Trump’s Rose Garden announcement of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court turned out to fell so many other Republican figures — senators Mike Lee and Thom Tillis, the Republican National Committee chairwoman — might just be coincidental. But it also, given the mask-free hugging and schmoozing and the logic of the coronavirus, might be, you know, logical. Experts peg that event as a “super-spreader.”

Other Republicans testing positive include former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and senator Ron Johnson. Yet even after contracting COVID-19, Johnson made a crack about “unjustified hysteria” regarding the pandemic. Such irresponsibility in a representative of a looming “hot spot” (Wisconsin) is tragic. So much for Republican enlightenment.

Biden, on the enlightened path, can stress what he said weeks ago: “This pandemic didn’t have to be this bad.” He can stress again that “I believe in the Enlightenment, Newtonian physics, and the age of reason.” He can stress again what he managed to state in that brawl of a “presidential” debate: “You can’t fix the economy until you have fixed the COVID crisis.” Most importantly Biden can stress that, as a Democrat who believes both in government’s capacity to do good and in a President’s responsibility to organize the federal response to a crisis, this pandemic could have been over by now — OVER.

Writing in the 18th century about industrialized nations, famed Scottish economist and thinker Adam Smith speculated that “there is a great deal of ruin” in such nation. But: As there is with everything under the sun, there is an end even to ruin — to the point where, because of the rubble, the phoenix cannot rise again.

In the 28 days left in this campaign, let us focus on the pandemic’s ruin — and stopping it.

Our times examined via politics, culture, morality. Author, "Can America Save Itself from Decline?" Playwright. Contributor, HuffPost.

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