June 17, 2024

will not go gentle into that good night

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
He will not “go gentle into that good night”
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – It is increasingly apparent that President Trump is planning to follow the advice of Dylan Thomas and not “go gentle into that good night.” He is inching toward a justification of staying while losing by declaring the November election illegitimate.
          A key element of this strategy is to suppress the vote. It sounds shocking on the face of it, but voter suppression is not new. Republicans traditionally have favored impediments to voting under the guise of protecting the franchise, and, in this vein, Trump has said if universal mail-in voting is allowed, another Republican would never be elected. The evidence does not bear that out, but it reflects the belief among Republicans that if voting is made easier, more young people, people of color, and working people – a majority of whom vote Democratic – would mail in their ballots.
          Now with Trump behind in the polls, his numbers sinking under the weight of a collapsing economy, a virulent virus and his own bizarre behavior, the Republicans are in high suppression gear.
          However, the plan is so obvious that a federal judge in Texas overruled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s effort to exclude coronavirus as an excuse for absentee voting. (Unlike some states, Texas requires an excuse). The judge said voters should “have the option to choose voting by letter carrier versus voting with disease carriers.”
          Trump is even promoting civil disobedience against laws in Michigan and elsewhere, laying the groundwork for a populist movement that will facilitate his efforts to remain in the White House, elected or not. To counter the virus and economic impacts on his reelection prospects he is encouraging everyone to go out and think of themselves as “warriors” against the coronavirus as they re-enter society after a two-month lockdown. He is testing how far he can push democratic norms when he encourages the “freedom or death” protestors in state capitols, even though no state has met the guidelines for safe re-opening issued by the government President Trump leads. This falls into the category of voter intimidation, and there already have been acts of violence.
          Memorial Day weekend will test two premises: One, whether the increased socialization among Americans will lead to an increased rate of Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. And two, whether enough Americans are willing to risk going to restaurants, bars, hair salons and bowling alleys to make it worthwhile for many of these establishments to stay in business.
          Trump is betting his presidency on the economy re-opening, and he may win that bet in the short term. Americans want to believe they’re safe and he’s assuring them that a vaccine is on the way, that the death statistics are inflated, and that he’s “still here” after taking a prophylactic course of hydroxychloroquine (hydroxy for short), a drug that is not proven to treat coronavirus and which his own FDA warns can lead to significant side effects.
         Meanwhile, Trump keeps his eyes on the stock market, believing his electoral fortunes are tied to it. Toward that end, he hypes the unproven and the untrue, whether the subject is a vaccine, China conspiracy theories, or guarantees of economic recovery. But, in the end, the stock market has a mind of its own. We can only hope the American public likewise does.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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