The Trump Covid Hoax?

Political theater is nothing new. And Trump is, arguably, a master at it.

The speed with which Trump was diagnosed, “hospitalized”, and, as of now, seemingly set for early release must raise a few seasoned eyebrows.

What would Trump have to gain by pretending to be sick with Covid?

Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!

If this tweet doesn’t strike you as a campaign message/strategy, think again!

The message here is clear: Don’t concentrate on Covid. Think about other issues. Covid is not the horror the media portrays it to be. And in any case, we have successfully come up with a cure. All this will soon pass and we will be better for it.

Clearly, the president knows that the electorate has been harshly judging him according to his conduct of the Covid crisis. What better (brilliant?) way to deflect this criticism than to present oneself as personally going through the Covid “fire” and coming out of it “better than I did 20 years ago!”. I did it. You can do it. There’s nothing to it. And most importantly, it’s all not what you think.

The problem is, of course, that this boy has cried wolf too, too many times. And that means that whether or not Trump contracted Covid for real is, in the end, irrelevant. No one believes in anything he says, does, or thinks. He has so debased the currency of the truth that no one will accept even a brass penny’s worth of it from him.

And his die-hard supporters? Well, it was never  about the truth for them. It was always  about sticking it to the global elites, whom they hate more than anything else. Trump the faux, unstable billionaire was their culture warrior and even, to a certain extent, their class hero. His hatred was their love. His disrespect was their honor. His moral failings their proof of grace and mercy.

Does all this sound irrational? Yes and no. Trump has always understood that class, culture, and social psychology are, when intertwined, a potent elixir of power. He also understood that globalization had exacerbated class antagonisms and that linked to that globalization had arisen an ideology (it’s left leaning version) that was anathema to many who perceived themselves the losers in the new global game and that oftentimes those elites who represented that globalization made them publically look like the “deplorables” they themselves often feel like. Hence, Trump is no aberration, but a historical trend that will rise and fall only according to the acceleration or deceleration of global economic, political, and cultural trends. Not everyone wants to see “one world”. Many want to see “their world” preserved, protected, and, yes, praised. “Make my world (insert any local, regional, national identity here) great again!”

Trump’s Covid episode was a last ditch effort, real or not, to manipulate the narrative and capture electoral victory. It was also perhaps the last gasp of cynical hate that helped fuel his political rise in the first place. On this November the 3rd the current messenger of global disgruntlement may well be gone, but his audience of millions will be as angry, if not even more angry, than ever.

Dan Corjescu teaches at the University of Tübingen's "Studium Professionale" program. Read other articles by Dan.