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The Orange Plague: Trump’s Viral Fail

On this episode of democracy-ish, Danielle is back and her mom is doing well after emergency surgery last week. Our hosts are coming to you from an undisclosed location (no, actually –– just their homes in Brooklyn and Long Island) to discuss the pandemic pandemonium, Trump’s mishandling of it and what’s next for the Dems now that Bernie is bust.

  • Coronavirus cases are increasing exponentially even as tests are scarce. What’s really behind Trump’s hamfisted response?

  • Biden has all but sewn up the Democratic nomination and promises to name a woman as his running mate. Will Bernie’s policies live on?

  • Will we be here next week? Pray about it.

With more than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 reported globally as of our conversation, life looks a lot different this week.

In the United States, the coronavirus curve looks like a mirror image of Italy. It’s not good.

“We've been joking for months now: ‘if we still have a country’ is our tagline at the end of the show,” says Danielle. “We made a joke on one of the last recordings we did together –– that we would be recording from a bunker.”

That joke isn’t funny anymore. Our public health emergency is trending toward an outright meltdown courtesy of Donald J. Trump.

Although we knew about the threat at least two months ago, Trump “decided to pretend that it wasn't going to happen, because he really believes in this isolationist nationalistic ideology –– what happens outside of our borders will never penetrate the United States,” Danielle says.

“We’re here because he didn't use that time to strategize, to prepare, to build beds, to get companies' support, to come up with an economic plan. Did Donald Trump create the coronavirus problem? No. But did he exacerbate it? Absolutely.”

Pour yourself a Quarantini; we’re going to be here for a while.

Episode Highlights — Make America Safe Again

Social distancing distortion

Experts agree that social distancing is among the most crucial ways to protect ourselves, and others, from COVID-19. But the president isn’t modeling this behavior. He has continued to deliver briefings on a crowded podium and shake hands with his henchmen.

Even after he was most likely exposed to the virus, he refused to take the test –– “like a petulant six year old,” says Touré. Days after the White House told us that Trump was tested and the results were negative, a reporter asked him what the test was like.

Trump’s response? "Not, not uh –– something I want to do everyday … you know, it's a little bit of a -–– it's a little bit of –– good doctors in the White House, but it's a test. It's a test. It's a medical test. Nothing pleasant about it."

That response, Touré says, strongly suggests that Trump is lying. “The test is a swab in the nose and throat. While some people say it may bring tears to your eyes, [the president’s] response doesn't track.”

Virus testing for fun and profit

“He did not get the test,” Danielle agrees. But she thinks there is something more sinister at work.

According to a White House whistleblower, Trump initially tried to quash widespread testing to minimize the statistics –– which would undoubtedly tank the financial markets and hurt his chances of reelection. Meanwhile, he and his cronies are looking for ways to profit from the crisis, says Danielle.

“I believe they’re trying to figure out a way to patent their own coronavirus test so that they can sell it. This is not, and it has never been, about helping people.”

A global pandemic would be a grave threat to the U.S. under any president. But Touré is surprised, given Trump’s serial self-imposed disasters, that it has taken this long for his barely-there veneer to crack. Now, Touré says, in this “truly externally imposed crisis, we're finally seeing how his inability to lead is causing a massive problem for all of us.”

It seems that local and state governments are stepping in. “I have to praise them … because they're showing leadership that Trump isn't,” says Danielle.

Government (in)security in the age of COVID-19

As reported by Politico earlier this week, the Obama administration met with the incoming Trump administration in January 2017 for a disaster preparedness training exercise. One of the scenarios was a pandemic.

Apparently, the Trumpees didn’t take the concept too seriously. Wilbur Ross appeared to be nodding off during the meeting; two-thirds of the attendees are no longer employed by the Trump administration. Perhaps that’s why nobody blinked when John Bolton disbanded the National Security Council’s global health security and biodefense office – which had previously acted as the White House’s pandemic response team.

That’s just one of the many missteps this administration has made in the realm of disaster management. But the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed deeper fissures in the American system, says Danielle.

“I don't think we realized how important government is –– many of us don't know the names of these agencies or what goes on in them. But we had faith that we had systems in place. This administration has shown us just how vulnerable those organizations are to corruption.”

Our current crisis might dismantle the central thesis of the Republican party: small government.

“We don't realize, on a day-to-day basis, how much we need the basic services that the government takes care of,”, says Touré. “Now we truly need the government to save us. And it's not there.”

‘Kung-Flu’ fighting

As one might expect from a man who propagated birther conspiracies and kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists,” Trump speaks about COVID-19 like it’s an alien invader. He unapologetically refers to it as “the Chinese virus,” as if a pandemic has a nationality.

It’s “just pure racism,” says Touré, noting that Chinese-American White House correspondent Weijia Jiang reported that a Trump staffer called the coronavirus “the Kung Flu” –– to her face.

Even worse, Trump’s rhetoric is “inciting violence against the Asian-Pacific Islander communities at a time when we should be rallying together,” Danielle says. “He is further trying to divide us.”

Not too long ago, some Black people thought the virus was somehow skipping them. But in recent days, as multiple NBA players and actor Idris Elba have tested positive, it’s clear that “no disease knows the difference between black and white people,” says Touré.

Taking his sweet executive time

The true scope of the virus in the U.S. is still unclear, largely because the testing is not yet widely available. But Trump hasn’t delayed congratulating himself –– rating his response “10 out of 10.”

“That's not leadership,” Touré says. “Leadership does not waste time telling you what a good job it's doing. A dictator does that.”

While people around the country are suffering and scared, we’d like to imagine that our president is working around the clock. But it’s clear that by 6:00 p.m. at the latest, Trump is on “executive time.” Yesterday he tweeted a retort to MSNBC in the middle of the afternoon.

“At 3:00 p.m., his feet are up. Bonbons in his lap. Curlers in his hair,” Danielle quips. “What the fuck?”

Virus progression = voter suppression?

While healthcare workers brace for shortages of beds, equipment and personnel, our hosts are equally worried about how the pandemic will affect the election. Ohio and a handful of other states have rescheduled polling days. What happens if the crisis stretches on into the fall?

“The president cannot legally push back or postpone or cancel the presidential election,” Touré says. “But he hasn't allowed the law to stop him from doing so many things.”

“Could we see some sort of backdoor maneuver, where Republican governors in key states close election centers — in what happen to be Democratic areas — to tamp down participation? I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to use coronavirus in a political way like that.”

Danielle agrees. “Voter suppression is in their blood. That's what they do.”

Although large gatherings are clear public health risks, we have over 200 days until Election Day to prepare, she says.

“But do you think the Trump administration is putting together a plan for that, when they couldn't put together a plan for the fucking coronavirus when we had a two-month lead time?”

Biden’s sister pact

As democracy-ish recorded on Wednesday, it looked as if Sanders was about to suspend his campaign for the Democratic nomination.

“I’m sad about where we're going,” says Touré. “The people have spoken. They want somebody who is nice and not revolutionary … Despite a vibrant field of Black and brown and female candidates who had progressive ideas for the country, we have fallen back on the most typical, vacuous politician, who has nothing new or fresh [to offer].”

Touré wasn’t heartened by Biden’s promise in last week’s debate to choose a female running mate. Sanders said that he would too —“in all likelihood” — but that a potential VP’s progressive values are the most important factor.

Biden’s blanket pledge allows him to nominate somebody whose policies aren’t actually optimal for women, he adds.

“I don't know. I'm hoping it's Kamala. Maybe Elizabeth Warren. I'm looking for a way to make me excited about this ticket. Because right now, I'm just not,” says Touré.

Danielle isn’t excited either, but she says –– although it’s a struggle –– she has hope, because Biden seems to be adopting progressive policies like Elizabeth Warren's bankruptcy plan.

“There is a nimbleness and a flexibility we have with Biden,” she says. “I’m not concerned about his VP choice ... because I think he’ll actually listen to the people around him … and build an administration that we can admire, much in the same way we did with many people in the Obama administration.”

Hillary, take the wheel

Touré says he wakes up every morning in a cold sweat, thinking “okay, we can make it through today. The world is not gonna collapse today.”

“And then I watch MSNBC for 10 minutes, I freak out even more and I have to turn it off.”

The world as we know it has profoundly changed, Danielle says.

“And I don't know if it's going to go back to normal. We have to embrace what is becoming the new normal.”

That being said, she admits that she’s outraged by the chaos Trump has wrought in the midst of this pandemic.

“If President Hillary Clinton was in place right now, I would feel a lot better,” she says. “Because I'd feel like an adult was at the wheel.”

Get your weekly rundown of the presidential election from a Black progressive point of view on democracy-ish. Consider Danielle Moodie and Touré as your tour guides, flight attendants and/or therapists as we move through this dumpster fire of an election cycle—together! #democracry-ish


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