Is Trump a reckless idiot who didn’t take the coronavirus seriously and thus endangered hundreds of thousands of lives? Or is he a dastardly authoritarian who has cynically exploited the crisis to enrich himself and lockdown the country and rig the 2020 election? He can only be one or the other at once, Cockburn would have thought. It’s intriguing to learn that, somehow, in anti-Trump world, he manages to be both at the same time.
Yes, it’s voter suppression again — this time it’s pandemic! Jonathan Chait, at New York magazine, has become preoccupied with the idea that Donald Trump has not, to borrow the Rahm Emanuelism, let this serious crisis go to waste. ‘Democrats have generally recognized that Trump has deep authoritarian habits,’ he writes. ‘They have identified the tendency in his many Nixonian maneuvers to eliminate oversight and turn the justice system into a partisan weapon. But his most overt scheme to maintain power in the face of popular opposition is to use the pandemic to suppress the vote. This is the red-line moment when democracy might actually give way to authoritarianism.’
That shrill noise you can hear is Cockburn’s hysteria alarm going off again. Over at the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb weighed in with his own macrobiotic analysis: ‘It’s possible that his abysmal handling of the crisis will tank his re-election chances. But it’s also worth considering the possibility that the same microscopic antagonist could facilitate a tide of voter suppression that would help him keep his job, even as he demonstrates how unfit he was for it in the first place.’
You get it? If Trump loses, it’s because he handled the crisis abysmally. If he wins, it’s because the ‘microscopic antagonist’ allowed him to suppress Democratic votes.
Of course, the majority of old people will vote Republican. Trump, no fool, realizes that and has said that, while disapproves of postal voting; he thinks postal votes should remain open to the old and the military.
Trump wants to suppress all voters apart from his own, howl the Democrats. Perhaps he does. But it’s also true that the elderly are most likely to die from the coronavirus. Assume there are no medical miracles before November: it is the over-65s who should be most encouraged to vote from home.
The Democrats are increasingly pushing for a mail-in election. Trump is against the idea, saying it leads to corruption. Both sides think they are protecting their own interests, of course. As the election gets closer, prepare to hear the ‘he cheated last time…’ argument trotted out again.