By Dr Selwyn Cudjoe
September 14, 2020
Over 6.5 million people in the United States are afflicted with the coronavirus, while 194,000 people have died from it. More Americans have died collectively from this virus than those who died in the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars and the World Trade Center bombing.
Had President Donald Trump acted in a timelier manner, fewer people would have been affected by the virus and the death toll would have been lower. While Trump was telling Americans one thing publicly, he was saying something differently in private. Greg Weiner noted: “President Trump’s taped admission to Bob Woodward that he deliberately misled Americans about the danger of the coronavirus makes him morally culpable in the ensuing tragedy.” (New York Times, September 11.)
In February 2020 while Trump was telling Americans the virus would go away in days, he told Woodward, author of Rage, privately, “This is deadly stuff.”
In March, while Trump told Americans that children were “almost immune” to the virus, he said to Woodward: “Just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It is not just old, older. Young people, too—plenty of young people.”
In April as Trump urged governors to open up their states for business, he told Woodward the virus is “so easily transmissible, you won’t even believe it”.
That was irresponsible advice.
Trump showed callous indifference toward black lives. When Woodward pointed out that he and Trump enjoyed “white privilege” and asked if he was working “to understand the anger and the pain, particularly, black people feel in this country”, Trump responded, “No.” He chastised Woodward: “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.” (Quotes taken from New York Times, September 9.)
In 1974, a former doorman at one of Trump’s buildings in Brooklyn revealed: “A supervisor told me that if a black person came to 2560 Ocean Parkway and enquired about an apartment for rent, and he was not there at the time, I should tell him that the rent was twice as much as it really was, in order that he could not afford the apartment.” (FBI files).
In October 1973, the Civil Rights Division filed a lawsuit against Trump Management Company, Donald Trump and his father, Fred Trump, alleging that African Americans and Puerto Ricans were systematically excluded from apartments. The Trumps and their company settled this lawsuit by entering into a consent decree in which the Trump companies agreed to institute “a series of safeguards to make sure apartments were rented without regards to race, colour, religion, sex or national origin” (Politico). Trump’s racial animus against black people was one reason why white people in rural America supported his 2016 presidential bid so enthusiastically. An NBC News national exit poll showed Trump disproportionately “appealed to both white men and women living in rural America. Sixty-two per cent of small-town and rural Americans voted for Trump.”
A Pew Research Center Survey suggested that “broad economic concerns of rural white Americans” were “aligned with several key issues that were among the cornerstones of the Trump campaign: jobs, immigrants and fears about eroding standard of living”.
Pessimism also reigned among these people. They were concerned about their children’s future. A third of rural whites believe their children will have a worse living standard when they are their age. (Rich Morin, “Behind Trump’s win…”, November 17, 2016.)
Trump’s war against China did not help whites in rural America. Tom Vilsack, Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture, noted: “China simply reduced purchases from American farms and turned to Europe. Lost exports reduced farm income far below the levels enjoyed during the Obama-Biden administration. US farmers took a hit, and so did the rural place they called home.”
Covid-19 also hit rural America hard. Relying on the president’s assurances, the meat-packing industry “failed to take preventive measures, causing the virus to spread quickly. Plants had to shut down, increasing market disruption and lost revenue and salaries for producers and workers.” Healthline reveals that rural America could be the region that is hit hardest by Covid-19 (August 3, 2020). Today, many of these rural workers indicate they will vote for Joe Biden.
The suffering among rural whites is real. Its inhabitants feel threatened by job losses, social fragmentation, drug addiction, suicide and wage stagnation, but their mistake was to regard Trump as their saviour. Trump does not care particularly for poor whites or black and brown people. Trump cares about himself, and that was their undoing.
Sometimes we vote for those who we think have our best interest at heart, but once the election is over they show little concern for their supporters. Recently in T&T we witnessed the unequal treatment in Covid-19 arrests among certain segments of our society. While police officers advised those in Bayside Towers (read white) “who were involved in breaking the law to disperse before they arrived… Groups of young black men of Sea Lots were made to lie on the ground while being subjected to police cameras” (Express, September 11).
Incidentally, Stuart Young and Faris Al-Rawi, our chief law enforcer, recused themselves 94 times from Cabinet business. We are told that is irrelevant. Sometimes we vote with our hearts rather than our minds. Sometimes those who you expect to act in your interest are often the first to betray your trust.
Trump’s betrayal of rural whites is a cautionary tale. Many of them still believe in him, but only time will tell how wise they were/are to place their trust in this conman. Some of them will pay for their mistaken beliefs with their lives.
A word of caution: be wary of those in whom you place your trust and your fate.