Trump Still Seems to Be Forgetting Politics 101

As Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced plans this week to let restaurants and other businesses reopen, President Trump told a national TV audience that he “strongly disagreed,” and as ordinary folks around the country were being vilified and arrested for protesting mayors’ and governors’ orders to stay indoors, the president remained silent.

On April 7, I noted that Trump, by subordinating his judgment to Dr. Anthony Fauci, et al. on when and how to reopen the country, had “placed himself on a path that the fundamentals suggest leads to political suicide.” The fundamental question of all politics was, is, and will always be: who is on whose side? Or, as Lenin put it, “who, whom?”

While any number of aspects of the current viral pandemic remain uncertain, the political side of the matter is crystal clear, shining, and flashing.

The political Left and the ruling class which it leads sees the pandemic as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to break ordinary people’s resistance to its power. Accordingly, they—Democrats, all—have used their near monopoly of mass communications as well as the commanding heights of the professions, corporations, and government to frighten the people into obedience and dependency.

Having identified themselves as the saviors from the virus by right of “science,” they try to delegitimize opposition to their plans to consolidate their new powers. They want more money to distribute to favorites as well as to hire more people to enforce more restrictions.

The political equation could not be clearer: the ruling class is on the side of enduring and growing control of ordinary people’s lives, to design a “new normal,” while ordinary people yearn to recover their freedoms.

Hence, the basic political question is inescapable: Whose side are you on? Trump tried to escape it by striking what he thought was a good faith bargain with Fauci on a staged reopening of the country based on criteria that remained in Fauci’s power to define. Hence, he has condemned or declined to defend people on his side while hinting broadly that he is acting against his own better judgment. Not incidentally, Fauci et al. take every opportunity to discredit or to decline to defend him. Thus does he fulfill the dictionary definition of tragedy.

Fact is, trying to evade Politics 101 is a fool’s errand.

Who are the people who are getting arrested for walking in the park, or swimming in the sea, or playing with their kids, or for protesting outside the offices and homes of autocratic officials? For whom does anyone think that these people voted in the last election? 95 percent for Trump? More like 100 percent. And why does anyone suppose they voted for him? Could it be because they were hoping to elect someone who would protect them from having their livelihoods and freedoms taken away by power-hungry officials?

These people were not thinking that the ruling class would use the latest pandemic to come out of China, manipulate the numbers concerning it, and use it as a pretext. No. But they voted for Trump because they felt, in their bones, that the ruling class would use any pretext to do precisely something like this. That is why Trump is president of the United States: because these are his people.

Regardless of what Trump or anyone around him might think, these people don’t belong to Trump. It’s the other way around. Trump is the person for whom they voted because they expected that he would be on their side to protect them in situations like this. Now, the casus foederis having arisen, the wolves being at the door, they are on their own. Trump is not protecting them. His reasoning, any reasoning, is irrelevant. Trump’s voters are where they would be were Obama in charge, or maybe even Joe Biden.

By nature, Politics 101 (who is on whose side, whose side are you on?) is a tenuous, two-sided relationship. The ruling class’s power grab has left millions of Americans powerless. They hunger for political leaders to take up their cause, to lead a resistance against the powerful poltroons who presume to choke ordinary life in the name of science.

For more than a month, President Trump has basically played second fiddle to Fauci and Birx and their models. He has not challenged the ruling class’s incompetence, let alone its mendacity about the pandemic’s mortality, or even their most ridiculous assumptions (whoever heard of staying out of the fresh air and sunshine to counter a virus?).

Again, whatever Trump’s reasoning may be, it does not supply a powerless people’s demand for leadership. If he does not lead soon, they will find leadership elsewhere.

About Angelo Codevilla

Angelo M. Codevilla is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

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