Saturday, September 23, 2023

Disaster and Uncertainties: Donald Trump’s Meeting with Fate

Wimar Witoelar
October 8, 2020 | 2:06 pm

In the month leading to the presidential election, Donald Trump has behaved like an accident waiting to happen, as Covid is destroying any chance of economic success. 

Unemployment grew at an uncontrollable rate, incomes fell accordingly and Trump’s polling figures plunged, leaving only a group of his core supporters whom he can rely on at the meantime. By average, rarely did results from various polls nationwide give the Republicans more than 45% of support.

In a reaction characterized with bravado, Trump sought to strengthen his base instead of broadening his appeal.

Eventually as the Covid situation grew more difficult and the economy faced hopelessness, he turned away from pragmatic analysis and relied on his self-perceived charisma as he ignored the disastrous public health situation. Science was ignored, common sense was confronted by bravado. He shows no fear for the pandemic threat and not only turns away from conventional protocol, even making fun of people who seriously promote masks and social distancing. His first attempt in Tulsa, Oklahoma to stage a mass rally failed miserably, falling short of crowd size targets and resulting in a personal tragedy for his unsuccessful campaign manager.


Donald Trump found his energy in the personal adulation that he receives from friendly crowds and he interprets as social approval and assurance of electoral success. At the same time, he raised doubt on the mail-in ballot electoral process. He also threatened to recruit an “army” of poll watchers disregarding regulations. Trump shows the behavior of a candidate uncertain about his own prospects.

His skepticism towards the widely-accepted health protocols has led him to an act of hubris -- refusal to wear a mask. Things looked to change dramatically as he was admitted to hospital and seen wearing one. His true believers were shaken and disoriented as Trump was being treated at Walter Reed Hospital. His condition is largely kept secret but we know he is taking experimental drugs. We pray for his speedy recovery.  

The White House has become a new cluster of infections, with the list of infected government officials and the president’s Republican Party colleagues getting longer. Many of them were present at the Rose Garden reception when Trump introduced Amy Coney Barrett as his pick for a Supreme Court justice. The Rose Garden reception has been dubbed by media as a Super Spreader Event. But as Trump was discharged from the hospital, his first message was for the American people not to fear the virus. He portrayed himself as a hero who came face-to-face with the virus and beat it. He also removed the mask while several people were standing next to him on the White House balcony.

To the international world, news of Trump contracting the virus puts the US back on the map after being submerged by the turmoil of his domestic politics. Will his illness affect his presidency? If Trump is deemed medically unfit by a majority of the cabinet, or he himself thinks so, power could be shifted to Vice President Mike Pence temporarily or until the Nov. 3 election. If Trump remains in power, how will the presidential elections turn out? Will America have a Democrat president or continue with him?Any of the outcomes promise uncertainty, but Americans certainly hope these political divisions will not persist after the election.

All world leaders have expressed their sympathy for Trump, all in diplomatic language. But some express irritation for Trump’s constant lack of respect for the fight against Covid. Gabriel Attal, a spokesman for the French government, put it this way: “This demonstrates that the virus spares no one, including those who have shown skepticism. I wish him a swift recovery.”

Wimar Witoelar is the founder and chairman of InterMatrix Communications. He is also a former spokesman for the late President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jakarta Globe.

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