By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on March 13, 2020
Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping shepherded changes to his country's constitution that effectively made him president-for-life. Yesterday, President Vladimir Putin won the backing of Russia's parliament for a constitutional amendment that would prolong his two-decade grip on power until 2036. The change would allow Putin to serve another two six-year terms in office.
Until the recent outbreak of a new coronavirus in the United States, President Donald J. Trump was on track to win a second four-year term in office in 2020. Like Xi and Putin, Trump was exploring a proposal to extend his term in office by repealing the Twenty-Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limits a president to two terms in office.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served as president from 1933 to 1945, was the only president to be elected for a 3rd and 4th term in office. Until recently, Donald Trump believed he had the political juice to repeal this constitutional prohibition during his anticipated second term in office because he was seemingly invincible from a political standpoint.
Then came the coronavirus. It has changed everything in America. The virus is Donald Trump's real opponent in the 2020 presidential race, not Democratic front-runner Joe Biden.
The virus is ten times more lethal than the flu. The outbreak has plunged America into a public health crisis of epic proportions.
As a result of the fast-growing crisis, Americans are learning, first-hand, how ill-prepared the nation is when responding to a surging pandemic. We now understand why healthcare should be made available to all Americans and not just to the members of Congress, the White House staff, cabinet members, federal judges, federal, state, and local government employees, and those Americans who are lucky enough to have private insurance through their employers.
The coronavirus infects and kills individuals whether they are Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, urban dwellers or rural Americans, Christian or Muslim, citizens or undocumented migrants, and Americans or foreigners. The virus is a plague upon the land. We don't even know how bad it is, as America does not have the public health infrastructure in place to conduct widespread testing of its population of 330 million. Smaller countries like South Korea, Iran, Italy, France, Canada, Spain, Germany, Great Britain, and Japan have tested far more citizens than America has.
President Trump, who was in direct contact last weekend with a Brazilian official who tested positive for the virus, says the pandemic will go away on its own and that Americans just need to remain calm. Of course, respected research scientists and infectious disease doctors who work alongside our national public health agencies strongly disagree with this presidential assessment.
Authoritarian leaders, from the Pharaohs of Egypt to modern-day Presidents like Xi and Putin, have never been able to conquer plagues, especially when these outbreaks represent God's way of holding them accountable for the oppression of the people they have demonized. The Bible, in Exodus 12:23-33, describes what happens to authoritarian leaders in these situations.
In addition to the Bible, world history has shown how deadly pandemics can be. The "Spanish flu," which did not originate in Spain, was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. In a matter of months, one-third of the world's population was infected, 50 to 100 million people died (including 675,000 Americans), and the global economy shrank by 5%.
The key to America's survival of the coronavirus pandemic is to have a strong, effective president who will tell the American people the truth about the virus and its implications. Right now, President Trump is failing to deliver on this front. He is still in denial about the public health impact of the virus and he can't seem to break himself away from his characteristic political spin mode.
Simply bashing China as the so-called "country of origin" of this virus is no solution at all. Also, there is no "Wall" that America can build to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. China built the greatest wall in human history and it did not help in containing the coronavirus in that country.
Persecuting men, women, and children who are undocumented migrants will not help either. The coronavirus came to America in the bodies of U.S. citizens and others who entered the country legally in January and February. Furthermore, blaming everybody else for the virus is no solution to the crisis.
Also, America cannot buy its way out of a deadly pandemic by injecting liquidity into the financial markets through an economic stimulus plan. This is a public health crisis, not a failed business plan.
In America, the stock markets are crashing. Schools are closing. Companies are emptying their offices. Sports teams are suspending and cancelling their events. Entertainment venues are closed. Public gatherings with over 100 people are being banned. Access to America by foreign nationals is being curtailed.
What is more, the information coming out of the White House is incomplete and inaccurate. In some cases, it is simply false.
This is a period of reckoning in America. Is Donald Trump just a high-profile "bullshit artist" and reality TV showman with great political instincts and remarkable luck as a president, or is he a steady leader with the credibility America needs to get through this public health crisis? The coronavirus crisis will make or break Donald Trump's chances for re-election in 2020. The nation will find out the answer to this burning question over the next few months.