Is the President Forgetting Politics 101?

In times of confusion, it is best to focus on fundamentals. What follows is an invitation to do so.

Americans elected Donald Trump—his negatives notwithstanding—because they disliked what the ruling class had been doing to the country, because they distrusted its pretense of wisdom, and because he promised to rule by a sense that defies that of the ruling class but that he has in common with the people at large.

That is why the ruling class’s nonstop campaign to show in every imaginable way that Trump is outside all of its norms only strengthened the people’s preference for him over them. As the mutual disdain that divides the American people and the ruling class continues to grow, and as Trump stands unmistakably as the former’s protector against the latter, the fundamental law of politics (who is on whose side?) guarantees his re-election by a bigger margin.

Unless, of course, Trump himself sides or is perceived to be siding with the rulers against the ruled. In that case, his fate is even surer to be that of the proverbial salt that has lost its savor, “thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

Since the Ides of March, President Trump has placed himself on a path that the fundamentals suggest leads to political suicide. He did this by surrendering to the ruling class—Drs. Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, et al, not to mention House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—his judgment on whether and for how long, and how the country should be shut down. This is of the greatest concern to the American people in general and to his voters in particular. By giving his imprimatur while suggesting that he is acting against his own better judgment, he fulfills the dictionary definition of tragedy.

President Trump is an intelligent, practical man, conscious of his peculiar responsibility as the one and only person elected to be responsible for the whole country. He knows how wrong Fauci was in the professional judgments he had given in January and February minimizing the novel coronavirus’s effects—for which he is not being held responsible—even as Trump was damned as a racist for closing down air traffic from China on January 31.

Every day, Trump (and the country) learns the ostensibly professional estimates by which Fauci, the Democrats, and the media have been flogging since mid-March are proving wrong by huge factors. And Trump knows that they are wrong because they are based on numbers that do not reflect reality.

Like all who pay attention, Trump knows that the number of confirmed cases means nothing because most infections do not result in “cases,” and hence that the real number for infections is surely higher, possibly by an order of magnitude. Also, the counting of deaths from COVID-19 is being revised downward because many of these deaths result from other causes and are attributed to COVID-19 only because the person happens also to have tested positive. The smaller numerator and the enormously larger denominator means that the real lethality rate is a fraction of one percent. That is why the curves Fauci, the medical establishment, the media, and Democratic governors cite for keeping the country shut down mean nothing.

Trump also knows that this establishment is hurting Americans by restricting the use of hydroxychloroquine—while physicians on the front lines, and millions of people who feel endangered, are benefiting from it or yearning for it. Yet, in the face of criticism from the establishment, he has muted his statements of what he knows to be true about it.

Trump is eager to open the country. And he knows that the American people will hold him, not Fauci or anybody else, responsible for the pain that adherence to the ruling class’s estimates is causing and will cause us. Speculating why, nevertheless, Trump persists in lending legitimacy to these flawed professionals, indeed why he lets them speak in his name, is pointless.

But Trump’s daily confusion of himself with Fauci et al.—no less real for being half-hearted—presses the question of how we may stop our pain and prevent the next bailout bill, and the ones after that, from locking the country in the grip of the ruling class even more than we ever feared when we elected Trump in 2016. One may wonder to what extent that question also presses on Donald Trump.

One thing is certain: That the ruling class savors the grip on us that it has achieved during the past three weeks—above all the presumption that we must quietly accept non-legal decrees from on high. It will not give up that grip without a fight.

Regardless of when Trump acts to reopen the country, they will do whatever is in their power to prevent him from exiting the path to political perdition which he has entered. They won’t give him a pass out of it, no matter what. Nothing that happens in April, or in May, June, or whenever, nothing that any curve does, will induce any of the ruling class to say, “OK, let’s all wash our hands, take precautions to protect the old and the obese, and get back to normal.”

Fauci has warned that perhaps this virus will return with every flu season. This is more than enough for such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—who has already said that the country will never be allowed back to normal and is echoed in that by the media—to greet any suggestion to move toward normalcy with the charge that it makes one responsible for deaths. “Blood is on your hands!” will be their rallying cry.

That, in turn, means anyone who may wish to lead America out of the quandary into which it has slipped because of our health officials’ incompetence and of President Trump’s apparent neglect of Politics 101 (who is on whose side?) will have to return to its fundamentals.

To wit: Start from the fact that the ruling class is discredited. Separate yourself from it.

Lose no opportunity to add to the discredit. Stress your own responsibility. Act on it. When they damn you, double damn them. Politics 101.

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About Angelo Codevilla

Angelo M. Codevilla was a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He was professor of international relations at Boston University and the author of several books including To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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