The global pandemic … of which Covid-19 is only a symptom

Drawing by Dan Perjovschi part of the Elections series.

Stay tuned for the Eastern Focus double pandemic edition and a series of podcasts on the US elections. Later this week.

With the US elections still undecided as this article is being written, either way this goes, Donald Trump wins. And that is because the redhead reality TV star-cum-businessman turned politician, whom all the quality media and ‘quality people’ mocked as a clown (albeit a dangerous one), is in fact truly an institution. He is the embodiment of all the suppurating ills that have been sapping at the root of America’s democracy, politics, society and standing in the world for decades, if not centuries. They have not been unknown all this while; just unaddressed. 

But this is not to say that Donald Trump the institution is inherently evil; the man may be, but this collection of realities that he gave a voice to is not. In a democracy, people are sometimes wrong, but the grievances that underscore the options of Trump voters are real. This mood of dissatisfaction can be politically manipulated, a minority can be radicalised, Russia can meddle, but if the same happens to a majority or to a wide minority, then that is the sign of structural problems which need to be heeded, not brushed aside dismissively as an accident of history.

Indeed this is exactly what many of us, at least in Europe, hoped the four Trump years would prove to be, after the US 2020 elections result: an accident of history, lasting a painful four years, but now over and locked away in a Pandora box never to be opened again, discussed and tackled discreetly, with gradual and sometimes cosmetic measures, as per the political habit of the past many many years. Thank God it’s over, good man Joe will now bring back some of the grace of the Obama years, even if little else, and the angry pro-Trump crowds will be silenced. 

The record turnout though lends implacable legitimacy not just to the result, but also to these crowds. From QAnon, to the white supremacists, the gun lobby, the radical pro-life movement, anti-vaxers, anti-maskers, they have spoken at the polls, they have exercised their sacred democratic right to elect freely and very much within the rules of the democratic game, they have made their choice following four years of intense debate and amid an equally powerful tide of anti-Trumpism, which has also taken to the polls in high numbers. Whoever wins, there is no democratic argument that can be made that these huge numbers of people should not be properly heard, that their claims should not be taken seriously and addressed promptly by their newly elected representatives – even if in their manifestations during these four years and before they have often abdicated democracy, decency, reason and common sense. Donald Trump did not create these realities; he has harnessed them and climbed on the wave – not as a leader, but rather as a follower of public mood and thus he may be a toxic, pathogen agent, but to consider all those whom he represents as such would be a terrible and antidemocratic mistake. Trump is one half of a deeply divided America that is here to stay.