Donald Trump seems rather more anxious than his die-hard supporters to replenish his election war-chest for legal expenses rather than that they gather for a last-ditch defence of the guns they will need to defend themselves from the socialism — and perhaps enforced abortion — which Biden seems to threaten.
Some of America’s deepest and most dangerous lunatics are united behind Trump, and some of them fantasise about becoming involved in some apocalyptic struggle between Good, as encapsulated by Trump, and the Anti-Christ, represented by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
So flaky do some of them sound — indeed some believers in the most absurd conspiracy theories were actually elected — that it would be wrong to jeer, or to bait them. However there are limits to what must needs be reconciled if normality is to be reintroduced. Biden might be better off regretfully allowing those who insist upon it to wrestle serpents, increase their chances of catching coronavirus, and resist any effort to force any vaccines or other bad fairies into their personal temples of the Holy Ghost.
From afar, Australians can snigger, up to a point, about the possibility of a peasants’ revolt or the spectre of Republican mass suicide from Covid-10 as sovereign citizens insist on their constitutional right to ignore science and medical common sense. Up close it may become a major problem, once Biden takes power. He is pledged to take charge of efforts to contain further spread of coronavirus after the disastrous mismanagement of Trump.
The virus is back to wildfire proportions, infecting more than 100,000 a day. The death rate is a matter of national shame, far worse in number than anywhere but Brazil, and among the worst for rates per million. Forgetting the possibility of effective vaccines on the horizon, the disease is not under control. That the US, which considers itself (wrongly) to be the master of effective health care is suffering more than most third world countries is a serious indictment not only of Trump and Pence but the victory of stupidity and wilful ignorance over science that their period in power has represented.
A crash program to bring down American infection rates, and death rates, would involve measures of the sort we have seen in Victoria, in NSW, and in Western Australian and Queensland. That is to say the measures so bitterly opposed by Scott Morrison and John Frydenberg, but for the success of which they now claim the national and international credit. It would involve, in the US, involves a significant rebalancing of disease prevention and economic recovery programs.
But measures likely to dramatically reduce contagion involve a degree of coercion, not least in the sort of red rural states in which the risk is now highest. There the prospect of cooperation and assistance from sullen republican state governments is lowest. For some it is almost a tenet of religion that one should not mask up, or avoid crowds. Some think that the virus, if it exists at all, is not dangerous but is the cover for a sinister Democrat world-government plot.
Hand in hand with this, as it were, is opposition to vaccination, generally, or against the ungodly Covid-19. The question for Biden’s policy makers is whether a popular consumer revolt against prevention programs, treatment programs or mass vaccination campaigns should halt at the moment where a citizen refuses cooperation, however irrationally.
That might be the politically prudent response, given the way that some warriors are spoiling for a fight. But it’s not only a matter of respecting their rights. Vaccine resisters will be maintaining a pool of infection in the community which will continue to put everyone, even the vaccinated, at further risk. We now know that acute infections pose long-term serious risks to health, including mental health, as well as a substantial risk of death if one has any sort of pre-existing illness.
Of course, most Republicans are as sane and sensible as any other Americans, or Australians. Many will do the right thing, including taking sensible precautions and getting vaccinated. That said, the lunatic conspiracy-theory “Biden’s gonna take your guns away” fringe has itself been a virus that now runs in the centre as well as the fringes of the party, and has become welded into both Trumpian and Mitch McConnell ideology.
That’s not necessarily because those who presently control the Republicans are irrational. As James Meek put it in a recent article in the London Review of Books, “it’s an observation that the interests of conspiracy theorists and the interests of the selfish end of the plutocracy have a way of aligning. Both are cynical and mistrustful of institutions of authority, the courts, the media, the government, legislatures: the conspiracists because they think such bodies are agents of a secret elite, the plutocrats because they place limits on their wealth and power”.
What are a few coronavirus casualties in such noble causes?