On Wednesday, Donald Trump confessed that he had lied to the American public—over, and over, and over, and … you get the idea—about the danger posed by COVID-19. By doing so, and by purposely refusing to provide coordinated testing, or a national strategy, Trump deliberately condemned 200,000 Americans to die and 6 million others to suffer through the disease.
But, says Trump, there was a reason: He had to keep the country “calm.” He had to “avoid panic.” Except, in the case of COVID-19, telling people the truth would have allowed them to understand that this was far worse than the flu, that it wasn’t going to go away, that it would be months before the situation improved, and that reopening schools and businesses was not safe. Telling people the truth would have kept tens of thousands more Americans alive.
With that in mind, what does the Great Calmer have to say on the morning after he’s confessed to the greatest lie in American history? Well, he’s put out a warning that the suburbs will be “overrun with anarchists, agitators, looters, protesters” and the dreaded “low income projects” (i.e. Black people). Another tweet filled with lies about how voting by mail will lead to massive fraud. Multiple tweets about the attempted “coup” by the Deep State conspiracy. And, of course, a tweet demanding that Democrats open schools—in spite of just confessing that he knows COVID-19 is deadly and affects young people.
Donald Trump isn’t concerned about panic. He campaigns on panic, lives on panic, breathes panic. He just wants people to panic about the right thing: Which is always, always, always, the threat that white nationalists might have to surrender some fraction of their power.
From the moment he descended on the golden escalator to spread lies about hordes of Mexican rapists pouring across the border, Donald Trump has done nothing other than try to breed panic every single day. And the focus of that panic is consistently about race.
Going into the home stretch of the 2020 campaign, that’s where Trump still is. That’s the absolute focus of his campaign. Every word, every scene, every musical note of his latest hate-filled ad, is intended for one simple purpose: panicking white Americans over the thought that Black and brown people are coming to their neighborhood.
It’s not just that Trump has lifted his “law and order” tag line from the campaigns of Richard Nixon and George Wallace, it’s that Trump is running on a theme even more dear to the hearts of Republicans circa 1968: segregation. Trump is running a campaign that would make Strom Thurmond proud, a segregationist campaign in 2020.
There’s no confusion why ten times in just the last few weeks, Trump has tweeted about “violence coming to the suburbs,” and how “Biden will destroy the suburbs,” and repeatedly warned against “low income housing” coming to the suburbs. Donald Trump is running a redlining campaign, one that is explicitly about erecting barriers to restrict the lives of people of color.
Trump’s campaign in 2020 is about racism. Trump’s campaign in 2016 was about racism. In 2016, it was “the wall” and the “caravans” of brown people that Trump claimed were the threat. In 2020, it’s Black Lives Matter, and “Democrat cities,” and “low income housing” in the suburbs. It was racism then, racism now, racism forever.
And Trump very much wants white Americans to panic. Because if there’s anything else that Donald Trump represents, it is fear. He knows that if he cannot panic white Americans with the idea that they might have to associate with people of color, there’s nothing left of his campaign. Because there never was.
Trump knows this. So does every Republican who is standing with him.