Trump turns race into only election issue

by M Serajul Islam | Published: 00:00, Jun 03,2020


Military police officers restrain a protestor near the White House on June 1 as demonstrations against George Floyd’s death continue. — Agence France-Presse/Roberto Schmidt

YET another black life has been lost in the hands of white policemen, this time in Minneapolis. A video of the crime scene did not leave anyone in doubt that four white policemen choked life out of George Floyd with knee-against-neck action while he was pleading for his life, telling the policemen clearly that he was unable to breathe. The president reacted but only when protesters clashed with the police demanding justice. He tweeted a quote from one of the most racist policemen of the civil rights movement, Miami police chief Walter Headley, and that too his infamous quote uttered in 1967: ‘when looting starts shooting starts.’

Trump’s tweet was racist, provocative and shocking. Tweeter carried it with a warning saying it glorified violence, an unbelievable but well deserved reprimand to of all individuals, the president of the United States. He tweeted later to undo the racist tweet that was largely ignored. As the protests spread to other major cities, including the nation’s capital, the president tried to do what he often does best — distract public attention away from something that goes against him. He, thus, called a press conference at the White House that turned out to be two statements: one, a tirade against China and the other, his administration’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organisation. The statements in normal times would have made America and the world take note. The issues were ignored.

The media’s focus was almost entirely on George Floyd. The reporters went to the White House to ask the president questions on his death and why only one of the policemen had been charged with the third-degree murder and manslaughter while no action had yet been taken against the other three and about the demonstrations that had spread from Minneapolis to other major US cities. They did not have any interest to hear his rants about China, his self-praises or the withdrawal of the United States from WHO. They were so disgusted when he walked away from them without taking questions that they paid almost no attention to the issues with which he expected to divert attention from George Floyd.

The president blamed China also to shift responsibility from himself for the large number of deaths because it is now clear that he had weeks to deal with the virus that he spent mocking as a hoax, a flu and a conspiracy of the Democrats. He also used China to put down his predecessors, in particular President Barak Obama, for allowing China trade deals that ‘plundered’ and ‘looted’ billions from the United States. He indulged in self-glorification by claiming that his recent trade deals before the pandemic hit would bring back billions from China to the United States without providing any idea how the United States would do so. He did not care to prove how China had plundered billions from the United States either. He withdrew from WHO accusing it of becoming a lackey of China and blaming it for covering up China’s role in spreading the virus that the rest of the world let pass that underlines how redundant he has become as a world leader though China and WHO did leave a lot to be desired in handling the spread of the virus that originated in Wuhan.

Trump led the corona pandemic at the start with an ostrich syndrome, a leader who believes a danger would vanish if he refuses to acknowledge it. He then wasted time by making fun of the virus and indulged in conspiracy theories. When the virus did not go away and America became the epicentre of the virus in infection and deaths, he changed his strategy and showed another dark side of his character in a make-believe world. He made absurd claims that his decision to stop flights from China saved the country. The truth was to the contrary; while he made fun of the virus and blamed the Democrats and praised China and WHO that he later turned into villains, the virus entered the United States through visitors from Europe where it was raging like hell through New York.

Trump decided to force the economy to open when the virus threatened his re-election by taking the economy on and unemployment on a free fall with unemployment to be at a dangerous 14 per cent or worse in November. He knew that the decision would add many thousands more to the 100,000 already dead around Memorial Day but he believes that the millions who will outlive the pandemic would vote for him for showing the courage to place the economy over lives. And, thus, on Memorial Day, he played golf to underline to Americans that all is well. He acted as Nero did in July 64 AD when he is said to have played the fiddle when Rome had burned for six days taking with the fire 70 per cent of the city, showing showing no compassion.

All recent polls even those by Fox have shown Trump losing his re-election because the pandemic will leave the strong economy that would have made his re-election bid a strong one in tatters. Oxford Economics, based in Oxford, England is ‘a leader in global forecasting and quantitative analysis, with the world’s only fully integrated economic model and 250 full-time economists.’ It also forecasts national elections in various countries including the United States based on ‘unemployment, disposable income and inflation’. It has predicted recently, based on these factors and its expertise, that Donald Trump would win only 35 per cent of the popular votes in the presidential election. Oxford Economics had predicted a 55 per cent popular vote for him before the pandemic emerged based on the same criteria.

Trump followed his racist remark when ‘looting starts shooting starts’ with an equally racist after he had sniffed his chance to play the racist card in his re-election bid with the disturbances spreading. He said that he would let loose the White House dogs if the demonstrators dared to jump the White House rails. With demonstrations and sporadic looting in major American cities now into its sixth day and gathering steam, Trump’s focus is now on how to turn the disturbances and violence over George Floyd’s murder as a trump card for his re-election believing that these demonstrations and violence, if encouraged to spread,  would encourage the critical number of Americans outside his who are as racist as his base in the critical swing states like Philadelphia, Wisconsin and Michigan that he needs desperately to to vote for him and help him win.

Trump is, thus, provoking the demonstrations over George Floyd to gain momentum seeing that it has pushed even the news of the pandemic as a breaking story to become a distant second in television coverage. He is pushing voters to make race the only issue in the November elections now aware that any of the others that make a normal US presidential election such as the economy, unemployment, foreign relations, etcetera, etcetera have been rendered useless by himself and the pandemic. He has an eye on the pandemic nevertheless hoping that a vaccine would come before the elections that he would be able to give to the Americans and claim credit for it. His administration has, thus, done a deal worth $ 1.2 billion with AstraZeneca that will be producing the Oxford vaccine for the delivery of 300 million doses by September.


M Serajul Islam writer is a former career ambassador.

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