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Trumpian Nationalists Have Met Their Match in the Coronavirus
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“Where does incompetence end and crime begin?” asked an appalled German chancellor in the First World War on learning that his chief military commander planned to renew his bloody but futile attacks on the western front.

President Trump is showing a similar disastrous inability during the coronavirus pandemic to shift away from his well-tried tactics of claiming non-existent successes and blaming everybody for his blunders except for himself. It is his first true crisis in his three years in the White House and, like that German general, he is visibly incapable of changing the way he deals with it.

Much virtual ink has been spilled over the last three years about the ineptitude and isolationism of the Trump presidency, and how far it will erode American hegemony. The pandemic has posed the question more starkly than ever before, but it has also provided something of an answer. Crudely put, the US will not remain the one single superpower if the rest of the world sees evidence day after day that the country is run by a crackpot who cannot cope with a global calamity.

More is at stake here than the future of the Trump presidency. Over the past decade, Trumpian nationalist populist leaders have taken power all around the world, and they too are being tested and found wanting. Without exception, they have shown themselves to be better at winning (or fixing) elections than they are at combating the virus. Some admit the gravity of the outbreak, but use it to enhance their power and silence their critics. Others reject social distancing and restrictive measures as unnecessary, or denounce them as a hoax cooked up by the media. What comes across in all these cases is that Trumpian regimes, for all their self-serving talk of threats, do not know what to do when there is a real threat to their nation.

In India, the Hindu nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, locked down his country with just four hours’ notice, forcing millions of jobless migrant labourers with little money or food to trek hundreds of miles to their home villages.

In Brazil, the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, took an opposite tack, downplaying the crisis and defying his own health ministry’s appeal for social distancing by going into the street to buy doughnuts and mingle with his supporters: one film shows him wiping his nose with his wrist before shaking hands with an elderly woman.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is reluctant to do anything to stall the Turkish economy and is jailing journalists who say he is not doing enough for victims of the virus. In Hungary, the prime minister, Viktor Orban, used the pandemic as an excuse to pass a law suspending elections and enabling him to rule indefinitely by decree. The dire state of underfunded Hungarian hospitals is ignored.

What might be loosely called the Trump playbook – though much of it predates Trump, and has been used by populist nationalist demagogues through history – falls short when it comes to dealing effectively with a real rather than a concocted crisis. However, comforting though it would be to suppose that this would discredit leaders who pretend to be national saviours, this does not necessarily follow. In places such as Hungary, Turkey and India, the media is largely under the control of the ruling party, and news of its mismanagement of the crisis will be suppressed regardless of the toll.

Yet the pandemic is exposing the weaknesses of regimes from Washington to Delhi and Sao Paulo to Budapest. Autocracy has its disadvantages since, at the core of these governments, is a supreme leader with devoted followers who believe that he can do no wrong. Trump may have drawn back from his claim that he enjoys monarchical powers and can do without Congress, but the boast shows his authoritarian inclinations.

Crises expose the poor judgement of such dictatorial regimes, where leaders surround themselves with cheerleaders and courtiers who tell them what they want to hear. A diplomat in Baghdad once told me that among the senior lieutenants of Saddam Hussein, the only safe course was “to be 10 per cent tougher than the boss”. Trump may not shoot advisers who contradict him, like Saddam did, but he does sack them and shows equal intolerance towards dissenting views as the Iraqi dictator.

The Trumpian generation of leaders suffers from a further disadvantage: they come from deeply polarised countries, and are both the symptom and cause of those divisions. Minorities are persecuted: Muslims in India; Kurds in Turkey; Latin American immigrants in the US. The new authoritarians are happy to rule countries that are split down the middle, but they are finding that successfully fighting a pandemic requires a higher degree of national cohesion than they can deliver.

The pandemic will rock many of these regimes, but censorship and aggressive government PR may limit its political impact. The devastating Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19 only gained its name because Spain was one of the few countries that did not censor accounts of its ravages.

The coronavirus may ebb, or news of it be suppressed, but it will be impossible to hide the deep economic depression likely to follow in its wake. It was the Great Crash of 1929 that led to the rise of Hitler and the advance of communism, fuelling ever-increasing political violence in the 1930s. A post-pandemic Great Depression mark II may have a similarly explosive political effect, turning the 2020s into the same sort of troubled time in our century as the 1930s were in the last. Rival nation-states will once again confront each other and international organisations such as the UN and the EU, as with the League of Nations of old, will retreat into irrelevance. Enhanced international cooperation and integration, which once appeared to be where the world was heading, are turning out to be a mirage.


As Trump presides over the break-up of the international order and the ebb-tide of US hegemony, it is difficult to think of any historic figure that precisely resembles him. But one contender should surely be Kaiser Wilhelm II, the swaggering, opinionated German emperor with catastrophically poor judgement, who led his country to defeat in the First World War. As with Trump, he warned – somewhat prematurely – of the rise of China and “the yellow peril”. And, again like Trump, he forecast that the great crisis that he could not cope with would soon be over, promising his soldiers in 1914 that they “would be home before the leaves fall”.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Coronavirus, Donald Trump, Nationalism 
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  1. Swaggy says:

    It’s all by design. Going on about Trump is like looking at the art work of a three year old using the medium of its faeces. It’s the parents who oooh and Arghh about it that you should be taking notice of.

    • Agree: Trinity
  2. A123 says:

    All rational human beings understand that the highly effective President Trump was working for them during this WUHAN-19 pandemic.

    Simultaneously, the Globalist DNC was working against U.S. Citizens & the Constitution. Their priorities were the illegally Impeaching the President on charges of “Obstruction of Nothing” and going on Vacation.

    Review the timeline of the critical months (1)

    There are very few who say that Trump did the wrong thing. And, they can be easily placed in one (or more) of the following categories:

    — Low-IQ, SJW Globalists
    — Medical Science Deniers
    — Members of the Fake Stream Media / DNC Propaganda Corps
    — Paid China Shills
    — Paid IslamoSoros Shills
    — Victims of Trump Derangement Syndrome [TDS]

    An artist rendering of CNN’s Jim Acosta is below.

    PEACE 😷


    • Disagree: Mary Marianne
    • Replies: @follyofwar
    , @Mary Marianne
  3. What a poorly supported essay. The author makes negative claim after claim with absolutely no attempt at supporting anything he says.

    I read U.R. to find informative fact-based writing which expands my understanding of the world. This was just a nasty zero-content hit piece.

    • Agree: Sulu
    • Replies: @SOL
  4. President Trump is showing a similar disastrous inability during the coronavirus pandemic to shift away from his well-tried tactics of claiming non-existent successes and blaming everybody for his blunders except for himself. It is his first true crisis in his three years in the White House and, like that German general, he is visibly incapable of changing the way he deals with it.

    The TDS is strong in this one, kimosabe.

    Excuse me? I recommend you turn off CNN. Do it now.

    Trump’s “tactics” are “well-tried?” What the hell are you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?

    His “inability” is “disastrous’? What inability? What is disastrous about it?

    This is the “first true crisis in 3 years?” Where have you been for the past 3 years, on a desert island?

    What a numbskull. And a lying, ignorant numbskull at that.

  5. SOL says:
    @Jedi Night

    Well, UR does pride itself on offering alternative viewpoints. Sometimes Cockburn does have stuff that is worth reading.

  6. Yeah, Trump is doing such a terrible job.

    And yet the American death rate per million is lower than almost all of those lovely European countries with good little globalists running them.

    Unlike his late brother, who was an actual journalist who spoke truth to power, P.C. is just your standard, cookie cutter globalist liberal shill who wishes he could be writing for a reputable mainstream rag like The Guardian.

    • Agree: Sulu
    • Replies: @Alfa158
  7. anon[255] • Disclaimer says:

    Trump suspended all travel from China in January. Biden called him a xenophobe and many in the media were saying that it was less dangerous than the flu at the time.

    China locked off Wuhan residents from travelling anywhere else in China, but let some 400,000 of them visit the U.S., literally deliberately spreading the virus here (there are video recordings of Chinese wiping elevator buttons and park benches after sneezing into their hands). Trump got it right early on, with no help from Bill De Blasio and his health czar, who encouraged people to go to a Chinese parade in February and to hug a Chinese person……….a superspreader event in hindsight.

    My advice: Everyone get 20 minutes of sun daily (vitamin D levels), take zinc, C, elderberry gummies, take ginger, take garlic, season heavily with black pepper (all of those, except C, are natural antivirals) , social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands everytime they touch something, disinfect frequently touched surfaces often. Its gonna be like this for about a year until a vaccine is available.

    Meanwhile,……we gotta get the economy running again by June. Starvation kills 100% of people who experience it. Its tough. Trump didn’t ask for this virus.

    • Replies: @MarkinLA
  8. MarkinLA says:

    You should ask the people from Hong Kong how they feel about the sanitation habits of the mainland Chinese.

  9. Exile says:

    Globoshlomo shills like Cockburn would love to straw-marry the concepts of “Trumpism” and nationalist populism. The truth that Trump is a mess does not QED the “failure of national populism” no matter how much greasy-tongued fixers like Patrick would like to meme this into truth.

    What exactly is “Trumpism” other than Trump’s personality cult?

    Is there some “Trump Doctrine” that PC can articulate without resorting to “democracy” arglebargle?

    Note that a certain infamous “Trumpian” nationalist in Russia is wholly unmentioned herein and others like Orban are attacked not for their Corona response so much as their “anti-democratic” actions.

    It’s clear to voters in the U.S. who wanted nationalist-populist policies that Trump has been all Tweet-no action. That discredits Trump and the neocon MAGA-cryptids who continue to shill for him but it’s no reflection on the concepts themselves.

    Patrick’s just the TDS side of the MAGA-TDS kosher sandwich fake dichotomy that Patrick’s paymasters use to maintain meta-control over political debate.

  10. What´s with Modi?
    If Wuhan, Ischgl and (of course) NY have taught us anything it is that advance warning of a quarantine is self-defeating. The 1% (or, alternately, the vagrant workers) will carry the germ to the remotest corners.
    First, the snipers; then, the announcement.
    Even the Prophet (pbuh) had as much sense.

    (But I see bashing Orange Man et Cie. is more important.)

  11. This piece is a manifestation of TDS which causes it’s victims to know not and know not that they know not. TDS did not come from China. It came from Langley via the New York Times.

  12. TG says:

    I hear you, but Trump is not the problem, he’s just a symptom of the problem.

    A big reason the United States has done so badly, is that our elites have shipped nearly all of our industrial infrastructure to China. So we don’t have masks, we don’t have tests, we don’t have the reagents to make the tests, we don’t have the factories to make the reagents to make the tests etc. And that was an elite decision, going back to Bill Clinton, both parties, and neither of them express any remorse or regret about this. Too bad, the little people will just have to do without, the elites have plenty of masks and tests and private doctors etc.

    And look at the economic ‘stimulus’: people living paycheck to paycheck and drowning in debt and suddenly without a job, are thrown a mere crumb: and a lot of them won’t get it, or it will get lost, or sucked up by debt collectors. Meanwhile the elites are in a feeding frenzy, giving themselves literally trillions of dollars in out-and-out bailouts, massive tax cuts etc. The government is now buying worthless junk-bond investments for 100% cash on the barrel: gee I wish I could sell worthless paper to the government for cash, but this game is only for the elite. That’s not Trump. That’s our ruling elites, both parties, in lockstep, with basically no opposition.

    Hating Trump is the easy way out. The problems are far more fundamental.

  13. J James says:

    In all seriousness – what single event has more validated Trump’s nationalist agenda that covid-19 outbreak?
    Open Borders – bad idea
    Global Supply chain, reliance on China for medical supplies and other critical needs – bad idea

    This is likely a major turning point in public opinion that will force a re-structuring of western economies away from unencumbered globalism. Yet the author can only see how it confirms his own pre-existing world view, no need for a rethink.

    • Agree: YetAnotherAnon
  14. Cockburn, this screed is so typical of you – massively idiotic.

    Illegal aliens are not persecuted. They need to be deported because they are criminals. End of story.

    You fringe leftists simply can’t put anything coherent together if it meant your life.

  15. We have all met our match in the coronavirus, but still more likely to destroy ourselves than this pathogen will. We are but a sneeze away from world war.

  16. @Taxi Kirkwood

    What, the writer couldn’t find reason to blame Hitler? Good try at second best.

  17. Alfa158 says:

    It’s a shame; Alexander was an interesting and independent thinker even if you didn’t agree with his takes on Marxism.
    This piece reads like junior interns at the CIA and Goldman Sachs got together and composed an essay that would impress their globalist bosses. The one good thing about it is that he may be right to fear this is the end of the American Empire. I personally wouldn’t mind living in a Republic again.

  18. Sean says:

    Korea, Vietnam, Deaths of Despair in the Rust Belt, and now Coronavirus. It has been China all along. The New Authoritarians, were a response to the old ones. But as far back as the Roman Empire we were never a match for their diseases. With globalisation the average worker is unable to compete with their cheap labour. In a lockdown competition the Chinese’s termite-like qualities of obedience make it a forgone conclusion who will come out ahead.

    In regard to WW1 Serbian nationalists started it and after it was over Serbia had doubled in size. The Kaiser had been excluded from decision making by his generals and ministers long before the crisis caused by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand planned by a Serbian secret society of nationalist army officers. Not their first assassination, they had killed the royal family a few years before Serbia was regarded as a rogue state. Anyway, the Kaiser was sent cruising in his yacht off of Norway told he could not come back and only found out about the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia from Norwegian newspapers. When the Kaiser returned he was met by his first minister Bethman Holliwig who offered to resign. The Kaiser told him “You’ve made this stew, now you’re going to eat it!”. Russia’s decision to mobilise, declare war, and cross a border (all of which there is an argument it was the first major power to do) was far more determined by the Tsar (and the alluring prospect of grabbing the Ottoman Straits, while fighting Germany with a blank cheque from France meaning backed powerful alliance including the UK) that Germany’s policy was by the Kaiser. The death of Ferdinand death and the ousting in Russia of V. N. Kokovtsov removed voices of caution and strengthened the respective “war party” in both St. Petersburg and Vienna.
    The Kaiser, or more correctly his officials, hoped that Russia would not fight.

    AS for why they continued to push, beyond a certain point they actually stopped pushing. When the Kaiser read Serbia’s cleverly worded reply to the ultimatum (which sounded a lot like acceptance, but had actually been carefully worded so as to reject precisely one clause firmly) on July 28, he immediately decided that Austria-Hungary should negotiate, though possibly occupying Belgrade (located right on the Austrian frontier) as a face-saving measure. The chancellor took a little longer to come around; but on the night of July 29 he very firmly ordered his ambassador in Vienna to force the Austrians to negotiate. Because Berchtold had declared war—by telegram!—the day before, and the Austrians had begun a desultory shelling of Belgrade hours earlier, his proposal was dead on arrival.

    Contemporaneous with Sarajevo, there was a cholera epidemic raging in the Balkans. Serbian and Russian prisoners of war transported into Austria spread that deadly disease and the raging cholera epidemic had much to do with the Austrian shortage of troops that meant by the end of the war they were drafting even men known to have TB.

  19. Endless seething.

    Minorities are persecuted: Muslims in India; Kurds in Turkey; Latin American immigrants in the US.

    Virtue signaling.

    The UnidosUS mission statement is essentially ‘free lunch’ AKA The Gringo’s Burden.

    In Blighty they are more or less treated like spoilt brats just because a suspected Jamaican drug dealer called Steve Lawrence was killed by probably rivals and police were too incompetent to thoroughly investigate. Today his functionally illiterate mother sits in the snobbish House of Lords as part of diversity danegeld.

    • Replies: @Rob (London)
  20. Surely Trump can’t come back from this!” says increasingly nervous man for umpteenth time.

    The lesson of Covid-19 is surely that nationalism good, globalism bad, offshoring doubleplusungood.

    The spectacle of the UK “fifth-largest economy in the world!“, like cargo cultists on some Pacific island, anxiously awaiting a cargo plane from Turkey of all places, bringing the masks and gowns they can’t make themselves, is humiliating.

  21. Sulu says:

    Cockburn…that name probably fits you to a tee. Rest assured, no matter how many vacuous hit pieces you write about President Trump he will win again in Nov. Anyone with a brain (I suspect that leaves you out) can see that the left is intent on destroying this country by any means possible while Trump is trying to save it. Even if the left dumps Biden and installs the tranny ex first lady Michelle/Michael as their candidate the Democrats are still going to lose.


    • Replies: @follyofwar
  22. @A123

    If Trump has been so “Highly Effective” then why hasn’t he had the guts to fire Anthony Fauci?

  23. @Sulu

    YouTuber H A Goodman makes a good case that the increasingly deranged, sexual predator Biden will be dumped in favor of Hillary. She is the only one with a ready-made campaign in place. Plus, she won the popular vote last time (but only when you count California – otherwise Trump won by 1.5 million).

    • Replies: @Sulu
  24. Sulu says:

    If Biden, who is obviously suffering from dementia, is replaced by Hillary the end result will be the same. The Democrats idea of a viable candidate that check all the diversity boxes is probably a left handed, black lesbian, transsexual with a limp. Michelle/Michael Obama comes close.

    Face it. The democrats don’t have a snowballs chance in hell in Nov. I mean it’s seven months before the election and they are talking about replacing their front runner. Gee, you don’t suppose that means they are in trouble, do you?

    I remember election night 16. CNN was proclaiming Hillary had a substantial lead in every state and Trump had no path to 270. By about midnight Eastern time it was increasingly apparent that Trump was the winner. Wolf Blitzer kept fiddling with his electronic map in a desperate attempt to keep up the illusion that some how Hillary could still pull it out. They delayed for some two and a half hours before finally announcing that Trump had won. The looks on their long faces told the story. I especially like the tears from NBC’s Rachel Maddow. She looked like she had just returned home to find out her entire sex toy collection had been burgled and Amazon told her there will be a three week delay in shipping her replacements. Probably had to go to a half a dozen different bar mitzvah’s just to cheer her up.

    The next morning the silence from the left on comment boards was deafening. People that had been making asinine posts like, “Madame President. Get used to saying it.” were no where to be found. They were stunned because like the stupid sheep they are they believed the media when it told them that Hillary was a shoe in. Hopefully they learned something from this. That the media is not there to inform you, it’s there to influence you. But I wouldn’t count on it. The sheep on the left seem pretty stupid. They will probably be screaming at the sky come Nov. Feel free to join them.


  25. @Amerimutt Golems

    There doesn’t seem to be any real doubt that he was killed by (some of) the white men who were accused and convicted (two of them). The real point of contention is what he and his associate were doing in the minutes prior to the stabbing. There have been rumours here for many years but to my knowledge nothing concrete has ever been stated publicly (to do so would be tantamount to a revolutionary act). For what it’s worth, the whispers I have heard do not involve drugs.

  26. @A123

    Because injecting disinfectants is super effective… not.

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