On Friday, October 2nd, 2020, Boston College students, along with the rest of the East Coast, woke up to shocking news: Donald Trump has COVID-19. The country erupted. An even greater divide split the United States. Many argue that we should put politics aside and be empathetic towards Trump, while others argue that he deserved to get Corona because of his past negligence. Either way, we know that this will have a lasting effect on the presidential election in November.
Even if you do not agree that Trump deserved to get COVID-19, this is not a time to put politics aside. Trump has politicized the pandemic since its beginning, and now that he has contracted the virus we must respond no less politically. Over the last seven or so months, a time in which the country has suffered tremendously, Donald Trump has not done nearly enough to combat the spread of the virus or support those heavily affected. Right now, in the United States alone, there have been 7.7 million cases of COVID-19 along with 213,876 deaths. In response to these statistics our President famously said, “it is what it is.” Donald Trump had the power to handle this pandemic differently, so now that he has had the virus he cannot be seen as just another case among many.
A global pandemic, like any issue of human health, should not be politically divisive. In a perfect world a global crisis of this kind would unite us in a common cause: slowing the spread of the virus in order to minimize deaths. In reality, this pandemic has been manipulated as a tool of division by the current administration. Even something as simple as wearing a mask has become politicized by Trump, who personally refuses to wear one. By manufacturing uncertainty about the pandemic and perpetuating the idea that it is a hoax, Trump has put the entire country, including himself, in danger. Because of his actions, it is now impossible to separate politics from the pandemic.
Now that Trump has had the virus, there are two possible political outcomes before us. On the one hand, Trump’s illness could have caused him to lose supporters. It might've proven to some that he is not invincible and the virus is not the hoax he has claimed it to be. On the other hand, due to his speedy recovery, his handling of the virus may worsen.
The biggest fear I have, as do many democrats since Trump’s announcement tweet, is that Trump may use this as an opportunity to further downplay the danger of the virus. Trump has been saying that there is nothing to worry about for months, despite multiple health officials stating otherwise. In one of Trump’s recent tweets, he did exactly what I was afraid of. He professed that Corona is nothing to be worried about and that we should not live in fear. He is catering to his supporter base, urging them to brush off the virus and get back to normal. This type of statement will do nothing but anger the left and fuel the right, dividing the country even further.
Trump’s insistence that COVID-19 is nothing to worry about has far more negative consequences than just dividing the country. As more of his supporters buy into the narrative that Corona is a hoax started by the left to get Trump out of office, the virus, which is very much not a hoax, could spread at an even higher rate than before. This will cause even more unnecessary deaths and illnesses. Beyond the potential increase in infection rate, Corona spreading will continue to have a negative impact on the economy.
Recently, Trump tweeted that he was not going to release a stimulus bill for those whose work has been affected by COVID-19 until January, after the election and potentially the inauguration of the elected president. He ordered Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to stop negotiating a stimulus bill that would relieve those negatively affected economically by the Coronavirus. Essentially, Trump is trying to leverage the stimulus bill and use it to get himself re-elected. This happened a day after Trump was released from the hospital after having top tier treatments on taxpayer dollars—taxes that he doesn’t even pay.
Trump releasing a statement like this after receiving the treatments he did for COVID-19 highlights the privilege gap that is so painfully obvious in America right now. Trump having the privilege to leave the hospital three days after his admittance is the strongest evidence as to why this needs to be political. At the end of the day, yes we are all human, but that argument is only valid when the president sees us all equally. Why should we feel empathetic towards him and put politics aside, when he can't do the same? We need to continue to recognize the disparity in our country, especially during a time like this one. If a pandemic does not stop the president from pushing his agenda through, it should not stop us either.