Donald Trump announced Tuesday night that he wants Americans to develop herd immunity, what he called “herd mentality,” in response to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the experts, that will result in millions of deaths.
Historically, presidents of the United States are “beacons of light” who guide and represent us. They are expected to be the ultimate public servant. The overarching responsibility of a president is to serve and protect the people. Donald Trump has taken a far different approach. We have been twisted into knots by his 20,000 lies, his childlike magical thinking, and his constant gaslighting of the truth. His malignant narcissism has intruded into every aspect of his presidency and our daily lives. To take it one step further, Trump is expecting Americans to die for him during this pandemic. Literally for him. But I am not willing to sacrifice my life—not for his personal and political survival.
Trump has already implicitly asked nearly 200,000 Americans to die for him from COVID so that he can project a false sense of normality to the public. He is expecting increasing numbers of Americans to die as he focuses exclusively on his re-election campaign. Estimates are that we may reach 410,000 deaths by January 1, 2021. All of these deaths are acceptable to Trump so long as he is re-elected. His only goal is to hold onto power. He has no interest in protecting the health and safety of the American people. He has abdicated his responsibility to defeat the coronavirus in favor of looking out for his own political fortunes.
The proof is in his statements and in his behavior. Even after his lies and false denials have been exposed by Bob Woodward in his new book, “Rage,” Trump continues to put American lives in jeopardy. He is undermining the mitigation measures that public health experts recommend. He is still sabotaging mass national testing. He keeps promoting the idea that the virus will disappear on its own, even without a vaccine. Now Trump has restarted his campaign pep rallies and he is not requiring masks or social distancing. He is hosting these super-spreader events without illness or death even being contemplated. Ex-presidential candidate Herman Cain contracted COVID and died after attending a Trump rally in Tulsa. How many Americans will get sick and die after each of his ill-advised campaign gatherings? When asked about his rallies, Trump said he is not worried about his own safety because “I’m on a stage and it’s far away.” He did not even mention the safety of the thousands of supporters who show up to proclaim their loyalty to him. Trump expects Americans to die for him—all in the name of politics.
Up to 150,000 additional Americans will die during Trump’s pandemic, referred to as “deaths of despair.” These are deaths from suicide, substance abuse, domestic violence, neglect, and other factors. These deaths are direct byproducts of Trump’s conscious unwillingness to defeat the coronavirus. In essence, Trump is asking these Americans to die for him as well.
Trump’s expectation that Americans will die for him strikes home for me. I am 66 years old and I have pre-existing medical conditions. If I contract COVID, I am at high risk for the development of severe complications, including death. The pandemic is front and center for me. It is not an abstraction. It is a deadly reality.
The Office of the Presidency is traditionally regarded in a paternalistic way. At times of national emergencies or tragedies, we turn to our presidents for support and comfort. A once-in-a-century pandemic qualifies as a national crisis. It has become a national tragedy because of Donald Trump’s conscious decisions. Never have Americans been asked to die for a president’s own political gain.
Let me be clear: Donald Trump could have contained and defeated this coronavirus early on. Other countries have done so. Trump chose not to. It was a political calculation. The loss of American lives was entered into the calculation and deemed acceptable by this president.
Donald Trump is the polar opposite of a paternalistic president. He is a malignant narcissist who demands loyalty, praise, adoration, and subjugation from the public. To Trump, people are supposed to honor and idolize him—he is not obligated to serve and protect the people. Trump’s psychopathology does not allow him to be a public servant. He cannot protect the public when he is always watching out for himself. Trump’s needs and wants are the sole determinant in his thinking. Our safety is of no concern to him—unless it profits him politically or some other way.
The expectation that Americans will die on his behalf is completely reasonable to Donald Trump. But not to me. I expect my president to protect me. I expect my president to bring the full power of his office to bear on containing and defeating this coronavirus. I should not be expected to die for Trump’s political viability. That would be tragic. That expectation, in fact, is the behavior of a dictator.
I do not want to die for Donald Trump. His belief that Americans should die for him is tragic, is pathological, and is unacceptable.
But that is who he is.
Can I—and you—survive?
Alan D. Blotcky, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Birmingham, Alabama.