Trump, our death-defying president...
Trump, our death-defying president... mfhiatt/gettyimages.com

Yesterday, the US recorded over 3,000 COVID-19 deaths. That is just staggering. As the AP reporter Heather Hollingsworth pointed out, that's more than the number of Americans who died on D-Day or 9/11. "Wednesday’s toll," writes Hollingsworth, "eclipsed American deaths on the opening day of the Normandy invasion during World War II: 2,500, out of some 4,400 allied dead. And it topped the toll on Sept. 11, 2001: 2,977."

So we have reached a point of the pandemic when a D-Day is happening every day. And though there is a vaccine, the dead are already here. They are already in the hospitals, or they are soon to go to the hospital. This will be the state of things until at least February.

But what is the US's right talking about? If we listen to Rush Limbaugh's show, the crucial issue concerns something that is felt as an eternal split between conservatives and liberals.

This man, who is running out of time, who will soon be in the grave, who will be a shade in a past that's receding from the present, sees Trump's defeat as apocalyptic. It is amazing that the final words of this dying man describe the political split between the right and the left as starkly as the split between heaven and hell. And in this view, which Limbaugh shares with millions of rural voters, it takes no effort to identify those who are in heaven (Jesusland) and those who are in hell (Sodomland).


At present, Donald Trump is receiving enormous support from the GOP to claim victory for no other reason than it is not possible for him to lose. The case against battleground states that went blue in 2020 has its source in a feeling that 71 million mostly white voters deserve more voting power than 81 million voters, many of whom are not white. These are indeed amazing times. Trump is walking on political water.

Many on the left are still and rightly puzzled by this craven devotion to what appears to them to be the personification of all that can be attached to the word "scoundrel." Some say it has to be a racial thing (there is truth in this). Some say it is because he is so hated by the coastal elites (there is also truth in this).

But I'm beginning to believe there's more to it than these basic and mostly correct decodings of the puzzle. The thing that must astound us from the very beginning is that over 200,000 Americans died because of Trump incompetency and outright lies. Bob Woodward even released a tape that revealed Trump knew the dangers of COVID-19 at the very same time he was calling it a hoax concocted by the left. But for the GOP base, these mounting deaths and accompanying coronavirus lies were as worthless as Trump saying stuff about pussy grabbing. Even if the election was held during the worst surge, during D-Day after D-Day, 9/11 after 9/11, Trump would still have secured over 70 million votes.

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What did Trump really provide his voters in the midst of the pandemic? If some extra thought is applied on this question, one of the answers that pops up is this: He gave them what the basest of religious feelings aspire to, which is the power over death. In this way, HBO's current streaming of the terribly depressing documentary, Heaven's Gate: The Cult of Cults, might be barking up the right tree.

In a way, George W. Bush's presidency failed because he couldn't conquer death in Iraq and 9/11. Recall death became a political reality during the Vietnam War. It entered millions of American living rooms all at once. After this vivid exposure, the production of death was pushed to the periphery and a Georgian pastor was made president. The supply of American death was limited to bombs that never went off (before the end and just after the Cold War—postmodern philosopher Jean Baudrillard made this point), or skirmishes in unheard of places like Grenada, and frequent mass shootings and gun-related deaths.

It is only now that America is really dying in astounding numbers. It can be said with some certainty that most of the COVID dead would be with us today if the pandemic was met at once with the tools and practices of hard science. But it wasn't. And from the beginning, Trump's interest in really dealing with the crisis in a competent way has been minimal. But he nevertheless claimed more votes in a presidential election than any other Republican candidate in history. His 73 million stands only second to Biden's 81 million. This accomplishment itself was death-defying. To millions upon millions, he was more important than the thousands upon thousands of COVID lives lost. Is this validation not, in our post-Pax Americana times, as close as conservative Christians can get to Jesus rising from the dead after he was was nailed to death by Roman soldiers? Beating death has always been the cheap shot of religions.