Donald Trump is in the hospital with COVID-19. His condition is good, but he remains at risk and doctors have, so far, been reluctant to give a time or date he might be discharged. He’s hoping it’s today, Monday October 5.
Since his admission to Walter Reed, there have been no shortage of tweets, memes, and digital tomfoolery around his diagnosis.
These are either harmless fun or a moral outrage, depending on who you ask (and depending on whether you think there gets to be a moral outrage about it, given the president’s overt threats against his opponents). But beneath the catharsis there’s an element of “see? Karma will punish you even if we don’t.”
Karma is not punishing Donald Trump.
Whether or not he survives – and let’s be frank about his chances, as the leader of the wealthiest country in the world – there’s so much here that is reminiscent of memes that FBI chief James Comey was going to dig up dirt on Trump, or that special counsel Robert Mueller was going to arrest him, or that an impeachment effort was going to succeed, or that, or that, or that, or that. None of it has come true.
When the announcement came that Trump had COVID-19, social media users wondered if the diagnosis was a front to get out of the next debate. The president, it was said, was so scared of debating Joe Biden again that he would fake the coronavirus to get out of it. Was he? Trump almost certainly is in worse shape politically now than he was before the debate – and as a result of it – but further debates are an opportunity to fix the message. It isn’t like Biden was seen as a clear winner, with most who watched the debate coming away feeling pretty bad about both.
Why would Trump try to get out of debates? He’s clearly comfortable in them, and he relishes the chance to interrupt Biden – something he can’t do when Biden is speaking at his own events. The threat of a change to the format could imperil Trump’s gregarious style, but Trump can simply declare a rule change to be unfair and not participate. In fact, that’s exactly what he’s done. Why fake COVID-19 to get out of it?
What Aaron Sorkin universe do you live in where a single debate is enough to turn an election? And yet so many people jumped into the pool of conspiracy to suggest that Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis is all a facade (don’t worry, conservatives did this, too: there’s a QAnon theory that he’s actually taking this time in the “hospital” to prepare for the coming end of the pedophile cabal. But this isn’t about them).
All of these dreams, whether it’s COVID exacting some kind of revenge on Trump (possibly sent, somehow, by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg?) or the certain coming arrest of Trump for all his tax crimes, are a way to win a political victory without the legwork. No organizing required, just call the Tax Cops. No need to build movements when you can have the ghost of a Supreme Court justice send a virus to mildly inconvenience the wealthy.
Protesters took to the streets this year and won concessions across the country. There have been political victories in unlikely places built by hard work. The way forward is not going to be milquetoast SNL jokes but people working in their communities.