Fear in America

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The Democratic Party nominated Joe Biden for president and the Republican Party nominated Donald Trump for another four years in the White House.

These two nominating Conventions opened the formal 2020 election season. Joe Biden’s Convention was behind masks and television screens. The Convention of Trump, imperial in purpose and centered around his family and himself, was out in the open, without masks, facing the beautiful Greek columns of the White House and the explosive fireworks at the Lincoln Memorial.


But behind Trump’s extravagant Hollywood affair, there’s hubris and contempt for tradition and the law. Trump is involving his advisors and cabinet officials in his private business of running for reelection.

For example, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on an official diplomatic mission to the Middle East went all the way to Jerusalem to praise Trump and to speak to the Republican National Convention why Americans must reelect Trump. This is a blatant disregard and violation of the Hatch Act, the federal law forbidding government officials from indulging in political activities on official time or using government property or funds to advance their private agenda.

Trump: I am the State

The White House, in which Trump staged his reelection campaign, is a government house, not belonging to Trump or any other president. Yet Trump did not violate the Hatch Act because, under the Clinton administration, in 1993,  Congress amended the Hatch Act and excluded the president and vice-president from its provisions.

I don’t know the real reasons why Congress decided, in 1993 and under a Democratic administration, to give royal prerogatives to the president. That was a regressive decision preparing the ground for authoritarian government. If the president is above the law, as he is in the Hatch Act, the president becomes king. Trump’s advisors probably read the 1993 amendments of this basic law.

Nevertheless, the symbolism of the president not being above the law is potent. Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist, said that Trump “desecrated” the White House. The Republican National  Convention “was a pageant of breathtaking dishonesty… Make no mistake about what Trump declared over these last four days. In essence he said, I AM THE TRUTH, I AM THE LAW, I AM THE STATE. The Republican Party’s platform has but one demand. One requirement. Obedience and loyalty to Trump.”

I doubt that more than a few people grasped Trump’s message reflecting the French King Louis XIV: “I am the State.”  Not even Biden is fully aware of Trump’s agenda – keep power by any means possible.

Biden facing domestic wars

Biden is struggling how to handle the explosive prospect of Trump remaining in office. In addition, he is caught in a tremendous variety of conflicting emotions and political interests. His black woman vice-president, Senator Kamala Harris of California, may diffuse to some degree the black anger and convince black Americans to vote for Biden.

The country, however, is  not far away from civil war. Congress passes laws primarily when the same party controls both Houses.

The Republicans and Trump are accusing black protesters for burning and looting cities in Oregon, Wisconsin, and Illinois. They are telling Americans that Biden means socialism, anarchy, and open borders.

Biden is trying to neutralize such slander with a big hug: embracing America, whites, blacks, Hispanics, and to some degree, Native Americans. But his choice of Harris for vice-president is probably alienating capable white women like Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose vision for America is more timely and necessary than that of Harris.

Origins of the pandemic plague

The other invisible but deadly force shaping America and the 2020 election is the coronavirus plague, still killing thousands per day. Trump and his royal Republican followers speak in the past tense about the plague. Biden follows medical science and criticizes Trump’s irresponsible attitude and policy.

Yet, neither Trump nor Biden have a clue about the origins of the pandemic or what to do to avert a continuation or repeat of pestilence.

The official narrative of the plague originating in the Wuhan virology laboratory of China may be true, but we don’t really know. America has Wuhan-like labs doing the same biological warfare research Chinese labs do. In fact, American scientists sowed China’s biological warfare field.

Factories of disease

The other unspoken plague facts come from industrialized farming, especially animal farms. These giant factories of cruelty, filth, and toxins are temporary and annual homes to some 9 billion chicken, cattle and hogs. In addition to meat, these abominable processing facilities produce diseases, some of which become pandemics, exactly like the 2020 coronavirus plague.

I don’t expect Trump or his advisors to ever discuss the disease-plague potential of America’s animal farms. But Biden must raise this emerging danger and promise to reform the hazardous and unacceptable way America goes about eating meat. The larger these animal factories, the more pestilential they become.

So, America is going to vote for its next president in the midst of the paralyzing and killings of the corona plague, tremendous unemployment largely from shutting down the country, gross inequality, race riots, police brutality, class struggle and political freeze.

The elephant in the room

In addition, the calamities of the plague, and white Americans’ fear of race protests all but eliminate serious discussion of what to do about the elephant in the room: climate change.

Trump is keeping pushing his deleterious policies of encouraging more pollution, the burning of more petroleum and a warmer Earth, and the devastation of the natural world. In Alaska, Trump’s greed and cruelty are probably encouraging irresponsible local and federal officials to look the other way while hunters are exterminating even mother wolves and their pups. Barbarism is not that far behind.

And Biden, overwhelmed by his efforts to restore race peace, and close the gigantic gap between whites and blacks, has put his green plans in his library.

In all this tumult, it’s easy to spend one’s time in watching fantasies of crime and sex on television – probably the “entertainment” of countless millions. However, such distraction from the issues of life, death, and civilization will make the elephant in the room so large it will wreck the house.

Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental strategist, who worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years. He is the author of seven books, including the latest book, The Antikythera Mechanism.