Throughout Trump’s adult life, and certainly, in his contemporary political life, Trump and his Republican supporters have pushed racial, pro-white themes to divide and conquer key political groups that oppose his policies or him personally.
Trump’s macho swagger and political messages all carry the same message. They are weak, can’t play in the game, have no stamina, stay in their basement, and are so wimpy that they deserve no respect. In short, they should be ignored and pushed aside.
This message appeals to his core base: white, high school educated, male supporters. Now, polls say his message applies to a small number of black men who need respect and affirmation, like their white counterparts of the same demographic. This social Darwinism theme appeals to his libertarian supporters, who don’t want any infringements on their personal liberties and believe you only keep what you earn.
This is old history.
Enter the Pandemic
Now, Trump’s macho message of exploiting the weak has a new engine. Due to bad luck for average Americans and good timing for Trump’s predatory, venal campaign managers, Cabinet members, top donors, and supporters, the COVID virus has given Trump’s clan a new powerful vehicle to push their social Darwinism message.
Trump, and a few dishonest doctors in the White House, are pushing the herd immunity theme to deal with the COVID virus. Herd immunity, also known as “community immunity,” is defined by the Center for Disease Control as “a situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely.”
The Republicans like the herd immunity scenario since it gets them off-the-hook for mismanaging the virus since they were told about it in early-2020 by intelligence officials. Since then, the Trump administration has famously failed to implement a scientifically-based anti-pandemic strategy.
As criticism of Trump’s inaction and failures mounted, his administration fell upon a new excuse to deflect the criticism: herd immunity. Unfortunately, the idea looks like it was proposed by a radiologist, not a public health expert. This did not matter, but Trump’s advisors pushed the idea anyway. But when the experts weighed in, they provided the details: the death toll from herd immunity would be horrific.
“If the U.S. allowed the coronavirus to spread unchecked in an attempt to try to achieve so-called herd immunity, the “death toll would be enormous,” White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Health said in an August 2020 interview. “If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms … a lot of people are going to die.”
Trump Revives the Discredited Theory of Social Darwinism
But, in practice and in messages created by his in-house anti-immigrant staffers, probably led by Stephen Miller, Trump’s herd immunity message essentially means “survival of the fittest”, which is a gross misunderstanding of Charles Darwin’s use of the term. Darwin repeated the idea of “survival of the fittest” in 1859 and applied it to nature, but the idea originated with Herbert Spencer, a conservative economist, no less, who developed the term around 1851.
Spencer’s teachings were eventually discredited, and according to this article in the Smithsonian magazine, his ideas have been further discounted since they became intertwined with social Darwinism, another idea that is probably discussed in private in the Trump White House. The idea of social Darwinism, as described in the Smithsonian magazine, is “roughly, the idea that the successful deserve their success while those who fail deserve their failure.” This should sound familiar as a Trump speech theme.
As for Spencer, “modern scholars, and the public at large, understandably view this idea (of social Darwinism) with disdain. Philosopher Daniel Dennett has described social Darwinism as “an odious misapplication of Darwinian thinking in defense of political doctrines that
range from callous to heinous,” while the journalist Robert Wright said that social Darwinism “now lies in the dustbin of intellectual history.”
Today, the magazine said Spencer’s ideas are rarely taught. “Gregory Claeys, a historian at the University of London, writes that of all the great Victorian thinkers, it is Spencer whose ‘reputation has now indisputably fallen the farthest,’ the article said. This may be news to the Trump White House, but they don’t care about the past anyway if it does not meet their present needs.
Instead, as we fast forward to today and the impending 2020 election, Trump’s use of herd immunity, when associated with “survival of the fittest”, means no masks, no social distancing, attending large public gatherings, saying the death toll “is what it is”, and that Trump has no regrets about how he mishandled the virus and public health directives.
In fact, it’s just the opposite. The most startling new revelation by his White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, is that the COVID virus cannot be contained, no matter what recommendations public health officials in the wealthiest nation on earth can suggest or mobilize.
Meadows said: “We’re not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics, and other mitigations.” He said this even though over 224,000 people have died from the virus in the U.S., and that toll continues to climb.
What Meadows said, however depressing and stupid, has its basis in many previous Trump administration statements. Trump’s and the Republican’s basic message is that the weak will die, and the strong will survive.
This will happen in every community, regardless of race and age, in every state in the union. And when the plague runs its course, as plagues have done for thousands of years, a new class will survive that will be genetically superior to the previous generation exposed to the plague and died. Whether or not this is medically true is irrelevant. Trump has telegraphed this dog-whistle message his whole adult life. This has allowed him to be a racist and still maneuver in a polite society.
Of course, honest public health officials outside of Trump’s sphere of influence say this COVID uptick is preventable in 21st Century America. The reality is that Trump wants to encourage this bleak heard immunity scenario. He benefits from it. Trump boasts that he survived a mild case of the virus, bolstered by the best, free medical treatment on earth.
But when the herd immunity takes hold, average Americans in Phoenix, Philadelphia, or St. Cloud, Minnesota, will have to wait for treatment. That will be too bad. To Trump, they don’t count anyway, especially if they lived in Blue (Democrat) states.
Don’t Forget the Billionaires
Trump’s rise of a Master Race theme also directly benefits his wealthy donors and fellow neoliberals.
A Twitter post by Mohamed A. El-Arian (Oct. 24, 2020), a well-respected investment manager, said this exact thing about how the COVID virus has made the rich richer.
El Arian’s posted stated:
“The strong get stronger and the rich get richer while the weak get weaker and the poor struggle more. A larger disparity of wealth is one of the many awful outcomes of the #covid economic shock, a great unequalizer which is also worsening the inequality of opportunity and income…”
His post was accompanied by this chart:
Trump’s Social Darwinism Theme is Too Hot to Handle
Mainstream American media, print and electronic, don’t want to advance Trump’s “fittest of the fit” social Darwinism message since it is socially uncomfortable and politically unsettling. It is anti-institutional, and the top editors and reporters covering Congress and the White House have great respect for the federal institutions.
Trump was phenomenally successful, however, because he told his supporters precisely the opposite. He allegedly hated the Washington political scene, its institutions, and establishment politicians. He also never had the mental capacity, attention span and negotiating skills to pass legislation in Congress. These same deficiencies also explain when he is a failed businessman, who was successful only when he allowed smarter partners or advisors to conduct any profitable deals.
But Trump does not have that luxury today. His policy and political failures outnumber the successes. Voters dislike him personally, and this downward spiral needed a lifeline. Unfortunately for all except those politically desperate Republicans who love Trump, this lifeline was the COVID virus.
So, instead of creating and executing a successful public health strategy, Trump let his paranoia, incompetence, and anti-science advisors run the show. His advisors mismanaged the health program as evidenced by the fact-based death toll. When this toll kept rising, they stumbled on the herd immunity idea that dovetailed with his social Darwinism, macho man theme as seen in this video from a Trump rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Now, when it’s apparent he helped kill thousands of Americans, he uses herd immunity as a new cover-up.
In Trump’s perverted world, some of his followers have already picked up on this dog-whisted theme. They are healthy and young and will benefit from the bad luck of others. Instead of promoting economic advancement through job creation and an expanding economy, some of Trump’s followers will see the virus as a new way to get upward mobility. Is this sick? Of course. But so are many of the other ideas and policies that have come from the Trump White House.