Opinion: American Democracy and Covid-19 Penetrate Trump’s Walls of Privilege

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Despite Trump’s best efforts to assume privilege from laws and icky peasant illnesses like COVID-19, the pesky features of democracy penetrate his walls.

In two days, three people within Trump’s inner circle tested positive for COVID-19. News broke late Friday night that his daughter Ivanka’s personal assistant  tested positive. Also testing positive is Trump’s valet, but maybe Trump can just get someone else to serve him Diet Coke and Chicken McNuggets.

Katie Miller,  however, is uniquely positioned to pierce Trump’s protective wall. She is the Vice President’s spokeswoman and wife of Trump’s most influential policy person, Stephen Miller. Yes, the guy who likes to declare immigrants a public health hazard.

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Yet anyone Katie is in close proximity to is in danger of being infected and thus poses a greater danger to public health than any immigrant ever will. There’s no shortage of irony in that.

If one believes in karma, it becomes tempting to see a cause and effect between a former Trump aide comparing Mike Flynn with Nelson Mandela  and the slew of Covid-19 diagnoses within the White House over the past couple of days.

Events this week made two facts equally real to us: Trump is a threat to democracy and no amount of privilege and walls can prevent Covid-19 from touching your life.

There are days when it’s hard to believe that we’ll ever see anything better than the hell we’re in. Certainly, the moment the DOJ announced it will seek to drop charges against Mike Flynn was one of those moments for me.

The Trump/Barr position on the Flynn case is about the law protecting privilege. As such, it was another assault leveled against the rule of law by Trump and the Attorney-General, who believe the law serves two functions: to protect the privileged and to oppress everyone else.

Another case made the point just as forcefully, specifically, ICE’s refusal to grant a green card to a doctor who took leave from her job as a professor so she could treat Covid-19 patients.

In the Flynn case, betraying America doesn’t result in legal consequences, because the traitor has the president’s ear. In the other case, no amount of heroism will prevent banishment solely because of where you were born.

The one person who could prevent Trump and AG Barr from suffocating the rule of law is Judge Emmet Sullivan, who is about to sentence Flynn. Based on what I’ve seen from lawyers who know the judge’s history far better than I, he is unlikely to give Flynn a get out of legal accountability card.  Then there’s the fact that Judge Sullivan told Flynn “Arguably, you sold your country out”.

That’s the rule of law, the cornerstone of our democracy, penetrating Trump’s walls of privilege. It’s why I’m passionate about the law and the institutions that make it function. The rule of law is not only about prosecuting the bad guys. It’s about protecting the rights and dignity of people who are routinely marginalized, typically doing the heavy work and begrudged even the minimum of dignity, respect and ability to survive. Even now, essential workers are the people who are highest at risk for Covid-19 and have the least protection, while the White House, which is at lowest risk, has the most protection.

Yet no matter how many walls Trump puts up, and no matter how much happy talk he gives, the Covid-19 virus will not only stay around; it will also get to him and his.

This is that broken clock moment when I tell you that Trump reacted the right way. Now, his staff will have to wear the very masks he poo-pooed because they would make him look silly – as if he needs help with that.

We also know from reporting about Katie Miller that White House staff and of course, the president and Vice President, are tested daily. This is how it should be, but not because of who they are. It’s because the Covid-19 virus infects anyone.

The fact is, Trump can yell all he wants at his staff for not protecting him. He must face for the first time a reality as harsh as it is for Americans who can never enjoy his condition of privilege. He could have avoided this vulnerability if he valued Americans enough to make fast testing available to everyone as needed.

Between these tests and Judge Sullivan’s bench, the rule of law and the rule of COVID-19 weirdly came together to invade Trump’s dream world with two large doses of reality.

We shouldn’t be under any illusion that Trump will suddenly become empathetic or capable of thinking of anyone else for a single minute. He proved himself incapable of such traits when he continued the happy talk as we reached and passed the one millionth person to test positive for the Covid-19 virus. He proved callous when deaths reached 75,000 and he still remained determined to put marginalized and vulnerable people at risk again so the economy can “re-open”.

It’s doubtful that Trump will understand that saving himself means saving us, too. Indeed, his self-centered policy – not his ignorance or unwillingness to face the problem – is why personal protective equipment was available to his staff but not health care workers. Though other elements of government eventually moved PPE where it had to go, special treatment at the White House was a privilege. That privilege is as undeserved as the privilege of a toady beating a felony rap. But in time, the rule of law will take care of that.

The rule of law will hold him responsible for causing deaths too.