The Main Thing About the Debate

Richard North Patterson. Beyond the Debate: Trump Is Running on Empty—Instead of ideas, the president offered lies, evasions, and weapons-grade exaggerations.

Gwenda Blair, How Norman Vincent Peale Taught Donald Trump to Worship Himself: The magnate’s biographer explains the spiritual guide behind his relentless self-confidence, Politico, October, 2015

Wikipedia, The Power of Positive Thinking

Yahoo News, Trump says ‘we’re learning to live with’ coronavirus. Biden says ‘people are learning to die with it.’

In this election, there are more significant issues than Carter has Little Liver Pills. Even if we limit our consideration only to issues of signal importance and great moment, there remain more of these issues than Carter has Little Liver Pills.

One might have thought that, chief among them would be whether or not the United States shall continue its 240-year experiment with Madisonian democracy, or whether we should just forget the whole thing. Because that issue is surely on the ballot.

But no.

Before we get to address self-government, there arises the issue of preservation of the self.

By now, we have spent several years plumbing the depths of Trump’s psychoses, and our efforts to understand have not yet been crowned with success. We do not know how much of his bullshit he believes all the time, how much of it he believes none of the time, and how much of it he believes on even numbered days but not on odd numbered days.

As best one can tell, he has long embraced some manic version of Norman Vincent Peale’s teachings, in which one succeeds by simply ignoring the obstacles that stand in front of you. Thus, his way of dealing with pandemic death is to ignore pandemic death, and to try to persuade everyone else just to ignore death from the pandemic. 

He is engaged in a psychotic social science experiment: leading his followers—and, if possible, the whole country—to disregard reality and behave in ways that put themselves, their families, and the whole of society at grave medical risk.

This is not normal. When I was a little racist redneck—as yet only knee high to a grasshopper—I learned to have a good laugh at the expense of the yet more backward redneck cultists who  handled snakes, in order to prove their religious faith.

And yet, I would think that one might learn how to handle snakes with a reasonable degree of safety, if you apply your learning and keep your eye on the ball. I would think that, in such circumstances, snake handling would be a great deal safer than attending a superspreader Nuremberg rally.

Common sense would tell us that elemental self-preservation would limit the appeal of mass suicidal behavior. But with a third of the country cheerfully drinking the Kool Aid, one may certainly be forgiven for entertaining the metaphysical possibility that the number of hidden death cultists is even larger.

At the same time, I will forgive myself for entertaining the possibility that those yearning for mass suicide probably don’t exceed about 35 percent of the population.