Malign Neglect: Was Trump’s Poor COVID Response Intentionally Racist?

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The news this week that the Trump administration never had a plan to distribute the COVID vaccine is another sign of their incompetence, but is it also more evidence that their overall program to contain the virus was intentionally racist?

Throughout Trump’s adult life, he and his Republican supporters have pushed racial, white nationalist, pro-white themes to divide and conquer key political groups that oppose his policies or him personally.

This is evident in his macho swagger and political messages. He claims that his opponents and others who are not vehement supporters are weak, can’t play in the game, have no stamina, stay in their basements, 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: primarily white, high school educated, male supporters, and some deranged people who have dropped out of the system.

The Pandemic and its Victims

Now, Trump’s macho message of exploiting the weak members of the US population 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 his misguided message of social Darwinism.

Social Darwinism (explained below) is a discredited idea, but it appeals to racists. It basically is a perversion of the “survival of the fittest” idea (a phrase Darwin never mentioned), but it helps explain why NOT wearing a mask became a political statement.

In Trumpworld code, if you don’t wear a mask, it means you have “better” genes and more immunity than others. Trump followers understand this to mean that racist Caucasians don’t have to wear masks since they won’t get the virus because they have “better genes.”  This idea has no medical validity, but hard-core racist Trump followers don’t care. Not wearing a mask is part of a hidden code. It’s like a secret handshake or codeword used on racist websites.

Then, there is 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.”

But, the herd immunity could have been a good cover story. In reality, Trump and his top advisors saw that the COVID virus was killing more people of color and people with media to low-incomes at a faster rate than other segments of the population.  These statistics were certainly noticed by Trump’s top advisors in the White House and in alt-right groups.

Rate ratios compared to White, Non-Hispanic persons American Indian or Alaska Native, Non-Hispanic persons Asian, Non-Hispanic persons Black or African American, Non-Hispanic persons Hispanic or Latino persons
Cases1 1.8x 0.6x 1.4x 1.7x
Hospitalization2 4.0x 1.2x 3.7x 4.1x
Death3 2.6x 1.1x 2.8x 2.8x

Source: CDC , Nov. 30, 2020

This chart shows that Afro-Americans and Hispanics were 2.8 times more likely to die than white, non-Hispanics.  American Indians and Alaskan natives were 2.6 times more likely to die than whites. This information and more showed that whites were not dying as fast as non-whites.

Who would approve of this news?

Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka

That is just the beginning of the white supremacists in the Trump administration. America’s Voice web site lists about 25 names and affiliated white supremacist groups were in the Trump administration in 2019.  Other media outlets have assembled articles on Trump’s racist White House that, for the most part, are not discussed on cable networks. Plus there are social media outlets. The website Slate found that during his presidency Trump retweeted at least four white nationalist accounts, including one account that was unambiguously called “whitegenocidetm.”

Worse, some 40 million Americans support Trump and his policies, including his dog-whistle racism from the Oval Office. How many of them share his views?  If they did not share his views, why don’t they stop supporting him?

Historians and good reporters could find a memo to this effect, but Trump’s actions speak for themselves. Some of the criminals who vandalized the US Capitol were Nazis and white supremacists. They did not enter the Capitol by accident. They were there to support their leader, Trump. So how did he keep earning their allegiance? By engaging is racist action that was eminently powerful, but hidden.  The dotted lines connect the reasons.

The media will be very reluctant to entertain this story since they do not have the hard evidence; a memo or tape.  But, Trump’s linked actions and inaction to controlling the virus, combined with his burning desire to appeal to racists, is part of his whole mental pathology for the last 70 years. Mary Trump knows this. She may have some insights here, but the general public can see a pattern.

Herd Immunity Was a Cover Story

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 done nothing to implement a scientifically-based anti-pandemic strategy.

“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 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…”

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.

 

 

 

 

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Chuck Epstein has managed marketing communications and public relations departments for major global financial institutions and participated in the launch of industry-changing financial products. He also has written by-lined articles for over 50 publications, five books and served as editor and publisher of nation’s first newsletter on the topic of using the PC for personal investing and trading. (“Investing Online, 1994-1999). He also is a marketing consultant, writer and speaker on topics related to investor protection and opportunities in the very dynamic cannabis industry. He has held senior-level marketing, PR and communications positions at the New York Futures Exchange, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Lind-Waldock, Zacks Investment Research, Russell Investments and Principal Financial. He has won national awards from the Mutual Fund Education Alliance (MFEA) and his web site, www.mutualfundreform.com, was named best small blog in 2009 by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW).

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