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Donald Trump sacrifices his own base to secure his hold on power

The current campaign efforts of Donald Trump far surpass the boast that he claimed back in 2016. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody,” he then crowed, “and I would not lose any voters.” The worshipful commitment of his followers, he bragged, was incredible. But if their blind faith was incredible then, it is now so far beyond it that no word can sufficiently describe it. Perhaps the word unfathomable.

The new book by Bob Woodward has made clear how incredible their commitment is. The followers of Trump continue to trust him in spite of what we all know. The president knew early on that the coronavirus was transmitted through the air and that it was “more deadly than even your strenuous flu.” He admitted that he tried to “play down” its fatal nature and later said privately the coronavirus is “a killer if it gets you.”

So we know beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump understood the lethal nature of the coronavirus and repeatedly lied to us about it. He assured us time and time again that the danger was limited, that many had immunity, and that the pandemic would magically end in the near future.

The cost of his lies has been devastating. Tens of millions of people have refused to follow scientific advice about the necessity for avoiding large gatherings, maintaining social distancing, and wearing protective masks. The results have been stark with tens of millions of jobs lost, millions of people infected, and nearly 200,000 dead. Estimates now project that fatalities could likely more than double by the end of the year.

While the new book has proven the deceit of Trump, the reaction to it has proven even more. His supporters, and even most Republicans, continue to believe his lies and ignore the truth he himself acknowledged. Showing their apparently unalterable faith in him, they flock to his rallies, attending even those held inside and rejecting social distancing. Trump understands he threatens them all by urging them to risk their lives for his victory in the election. They are, as Carl Bernstein said, his “sacrificial lambs.”

For those staunch followers, Trump is not only a president to believe in but a president to die for. Indeed, his cruel cynicism is on display under the bright lights at his rallies. While subjecting his followers to the risk of disease and death, Trump remains far removed from them, protected by distance and security, ensuring that he, and he alone, remains safe from the “killer” coronavirus to continue his power as president.

The real national tragedy, however, is even more extensive and horrifying. Public health experts agree that everyone should wear masks and practice social distancing, not only to protect themselves, but to protect all those with whom they come in close contact. The supporters of Trump refuse to accept that fact and set everyone else in the country in danger.

Americans must now face the undeniable truth in this. The ultimate fault in our failed national response to the pandemic is not attributable simply to the treacherous lies and destructive leadership of Trump. The ultimate responsibility falls on his enablers, his supporters, his propagandists, and members of the Republican Party. They have refused to recognize, or at least to admit publicly, exactly what Trump is to the country.

The president is a man of lies, deceptions, and corruptions. He cares not about anything or anyone but himself. Nothing has demonstrated those traits so decisively as his reckless determination to continue lying about the coronavirus and the failed response of his administration to it, while encouraging his followers to risk their lives and those of their friends and families and communities by packing in together at his rallies.

James Madison sounded a timeless warning about popular constitutional government at the ratifying convention. He said, “No theoretical checks, no form of government can render us secure, unless the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom.” If Americans fail to select for office men and women who are decent, honest, and truly committed to our welfare and security, then our democracy also fails. We are already starting to witness such a calamity with this president.

Edward Purcell Jr. is the Joseph Solomon distinguished professor with New York Law School and is an author whose latest book is “Antonin Scalia and American Constitutionalism: The Historical Significance of a Judicial Icon.”

Tags America Donald Trump Election Government Politics President Republicans

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