Donald Trump’s Covid 19 disease is giving the election campaign in the USA a new, unprecedented turn with an unknown outcome. While his personal physician assures that the president can continue his official business “without interruption”, at least the election campaign will be interrupted, and with it Trump’s controversial appearances in front of his supporters. He can no longer distract from the corona crisis.
Should the president become ill more seriously and for a longer period of time, the US will enter new territory, a phase of uncertainty. Should he recover soon, Trump could celebrate a kind of comeback as a strong man who has overcome this insidious disease without any problems in a short period of time – as the greatest patient of all time, with the best immune defense in the world. As Trump said so often: It will go away, some day, like a miracle.
The dynamic and film on which this election campaign has played so far have changed: After the chaotic television duel, the focus was not on political concepts and differences, but on the sanity of the most powerful man in the world. And above all, concerns about whether Trump would accept defeat at all – the deliberate delegitimization of postal votes, leveraged by weakening the American postal service (including dismantling mailboxes), gave rise to fears of the worst: a power vacuum, political chaos, unrest, violence, a break in the democratic tradition in the US.
All of this is still conceivable and possible. It now depends solely on the president’s course of illness – and the question of whether and how he uses or even stages this illness. The spin doctors and storytellers in the American capital are facing a whole new challenge. You can tell from the headlines. In the “New York Times” the headline was already shortly after the “Breaking News”: “After Months of Playing Down Outbreak’s Severity President Confronts Infection” – there it is, the correlation (or even causality?) Between crisis management and illness.
Look into your own abysses
Asked another way: What did you think when you heard the news for the first time? What went through your head? Did you listen inside and were frightened? Because you felt glee? According to the motto: is this man doing the right thing, who like no other has publicly downplayed the danger of the virus? (An entertaining “It will go away” potpurri can be found here.)
Of course you shouldn’t think that, even in the sense of the categorical imperative you have to wish Donald Trump a recovery. But: If you are looking into some abysses at this moment, then it is not the abysses of your person or your conscience, but the abysses that this President himself created. We then fall into the trap that Trump has set again and again: He lives off of increasing hatred and division and enlarging them.
It is extremely ironic that precisely those heads of state have Covid-19 who did not take the virus seriously, downplaying it and practicing inconsistent crisis management – Boris Johnson, Jair Messias Bolsonaro, Donald Trump. But the possible satisfaction at knowing that these men are paying, or have paid, a personal price doesn’t help at all. Not the sick, not the families who have lost people, not those who have fallen into poverty or been fired.
It does not help at all for the “second wave” either, because Germany and Europe are faced with difficult decisions of their own as to how much opening they can continue to allow, how many restrictions they have to impose again. The art of weighing up – protecting life versus protecting existence – which has preoccupied us and has almost torn apart a few times, continues to require all attention and strength.
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