During the influenza pandemic of 1918 the bishop of Zamora defied the health authorities by ordering evening prayers for nine consecutive days in honour of St Rocco, patron saint of plague and pestilence. The epidemic was according to him down to the sins and ingratitude of the population. His congregation were encouraged to kiss the holy relics of St Rocco. Zamora suffered the highest death rate from the disease in all of Spain.
Fast forward a century to the USA, and there’s another “historic victory” of religious superstition over science. The US Supreme Court has blocked New York State Covid restrictions on attendance at houses of worship. The six-to-three majority counted three Trump-appointed judges, including the most recent one, Catholic fundamentalist Amy Coney Barrett.
Covid rages across America — cases passing the 13 million mark — and Trump has given up caring if he bothered to care in the first place. Covid deaths now approach 270,000 and will probably be in excess of 350,000 when Biden gets inaugurated. Trump’s attention is still centred on himself.
The serious danger of provoking a war with Iran is perhaps the greatest cause for concern. Trump seems to seek through sheer vindictiveness to end any prospect of a peaceful agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme.
His chief order of the day is dealing out corrupt pardons. Michael Flynn, his former National Security Adviser, has been the first recipient. Others such as Paul Manafort can be expected to follow.
Most Trump cronies will have get-out-of-jail-free cards, with the exception of “that rat” Michael Cohen. There might even be a surprise pardon for Julian Assange, as reward for help over all those Hilary Clinton emails!
It isn’t clear whether Trump has the power to pardon himself or his family members for crimes they’ve committed. Since they’ve not actually been charged with anything yet, it is difficult to see what offences they can be pardoned for.
One test for the Biden administration is whether or not they are determined to facilitate proceedings against Trump and his cronies in the courts for federal crimes. Indications so far suggest they’ll let him off for fear of antagonising his base.
However, state authorities may prosecute the Trump organisation for fraud and tax evasion; and Trump faces significant charges he faces from at least 26 women for sexual assault.
Trump is no stranger to litigation. This is a man who successfully sued one of his banks over his own failure to pay back loans they made to him! His current legal actions involve trying to overthrow the democratic decision of the American electorate on the totally unsubstantiated grounds that their votes were fraudulent.
The farcical endeavours of Rudi Guiliani have been laughed out of court, but it has been a successful grifting exercise to raise money to pay off Trump’s campaign bill.
Trump as workers’ champion?
Trump is also trashing the house on the way out by sacking civil servants who refuse to back his conspiracy theories and by other wrecking measures such as ending authorisation to the Fed for lending programmes to prevent another financial crisis.
Some Republican hacks have “talked Marxist”, claiming that Trump is the champion of the American working class and the Democrats constitute an alliance between the coastal “elites” and “the underclass”.
The idea of Trump as workers’ champion is a travesty given his record in office. He put more billionaires in his cabinet than any president in history, gave huge tax breaks to the rich and corporations, and proposed massive cuts to education, housing and healthcare programmes.
Why were those facts ignored to such an extent that Trump managed to increase his vote by a staggering eleven million?
Orson Welles in 1938 broadcast a spoof radio programme based on H G Wells’s World of the Worlds. Many Americans believed it was real and headed for the hills to escape “the Martians”. In those early days the public believed the word of radio.
Today the “fake news” is not just confined to radio. Many people rely on Facebook and Twitter for their “news”. There they are told that election results are fraudulent. Pandemics are “a hoax”. Victims of gun crimes are “actors”.
To counter this world of fakery, socialist policies need to be advanced which deal with the problems faced by working people. Bernie Sanders has talked of the need to avoid a second and worse Trump — i.e. one who is just as ruthless, but more competent.
Trump has shown how fragile bourgeois democracy is in America and potentially paved the way for a more astute candidate to take up the mantle and push harder and more effectively to right-wing dictatorship.
A real alternative means taking on the powerful capitalist interests — Wall Street, big tech, the military-industrial complex. Joe Biden’s “return to normal” won’t do that. It ignores the reasons why Trump was successful in the first place.