Terry H. Schwadron
Oct. 29, 2020
These days before election are forcing us to look hard at the power of Denial and the demands of Impatience.
Of course, official Donald Trump whitewashes of current events to see only what he and his supporters want to see reflects a wanton disregard for all the things that Trump says he wants — a safe and prosperous America. And it overwrites a failure to come up with a stimulus bill that can enable the country the space to react to the disease.
Somehow, Denial provides a tool for the Trump campaign to mask the reality of a pandemic undergoing wild growth once again, as well as masking serious economic problems that simply cannot go away without addressing coronavirus. But the degree to which he refuses the reality of contagion on public health, on the limitations of daily life, on the tolls for families and on the economy itself frankly are offensive.
Sure, Denial affects Democrats too, with Joe Biden suggesting that changing the guy at the top alone will make pandemic think twice about continuing its ugly, fatal ways, or that his arrival will stop a court overturn of Obamacare, or automatically reunite children taken from migrant parents.
The divisions that follow this public Denial of reality are being fanned by another social ill — Impatience at getting it fixed. Even more the actual outcome, it is Impatience that is driving our reactions to the multiple, simultaneous uncertainties.
It is Impatience rather than some abstract call for Independence that is prompting so many to forgo masks meant for public safety, it is Impatience that makes us crazy to see election polling that shows at once that the Biden lead is solid and continuing while having to endure endless Electoral College map lessons on how that one Nebraska congressional district may give the election to Trump.
We’re reaping the cultural harvest of years of TV dramas resolved in under an hour, for lifetimes of sloganeering replacing complexity, of insisting on cheerleading rather than problem-solving.
No One Wants to Be Wrong
Our individual and local concerns are magnified by news reports on the election and endless social media that aim for the simple rather than the complicated. We all understand now that the election process itself has become a complex jigsaw puzzle of steps and conflicting rules and that the pandemic has made even usually difficult predictions much worse.
Yet rather than two candidates and parties getting together only for the purposes of calling for a little Patience to let us sort out the voting results, we have what we have come to recognize as usual partisan demand to Win — immediately. Rather than two candidates and parties standing together to call for a peaceful, if overly long count of mail ballots, we have court challenges, intimidation at the polls and threats of near-Civil War from armed groups showing more fealty to gun violence than Democracy.
Denial provides the tinted eyeglasses that filter out all information with which we disagree. Those network “walk and talk” interviews with voters in battleground states are remarkable not for the political lean of individuals, but for the utter lack of fact reflected back in the interviews.
Pandemic cases, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise again, a new wave, just as in Europe and elsewhere. It’s a fact, not an opinion. For Trump to simply assert, as he does daily, that the end is in sight, or that the White House declared as ended in an official document this week, is simply wrong. I suppose you can believe that Trump did everything humanly possible to combat the disease — something a majority of the country does not believe, given Trump’s own repeated words and lack of actions, but not the reality that there is disease.
He even is attacking the news media for reporting the increase in cases. It is, as we are starting to hear more sharply, reckless disregard for death, the language of criminality.
Nor should voters accept that jobs and economic recovery is somehow divorced from dealing with pandemic. Where are the customers — masked or not — supposed to come from if they are subject to contagion?
Public Denial may be the ultimate winner of this election.
We Can’t Wait
In interview after interview, we see Impatience with pandemic, with restriction, with perceived overreach by governors in the name of public safety. We see fistfights and civil disobedience of public health orders in the name of independence — the same sort of public health orders that require seat belts while driving, which is not optional, or helmets for motorcyclists.
We’re seeing a remarkable counter-reaction to all this in the snakingly long early voting lines, truly an astounding display of literal Patience to stand there long enough to cast a ballot.
Along the way, we’re being forced to endure advertising that — of course — is negative, and never tells the truth, but this time seem unduly unrepresentative of what Biden really said about taxes or xenophobia or that attack individual Democratic office holders by association. The Trump campaign a set of cheap shots.
The Biden versions at least try to present what Trump actually has done or said about what he thinks he has done.
But then comes the processing and the counting, and our leaders seem to want the answer immediately. Trump, Republican legislators and even justices on the Supreme Court itself has indicated that it is hinky about allowing multiple states the time to fully count ballots postmarked but not in hand by 8 p.m. Tuesday — even if those same states have done so previously.
This official Impatience we see is partisan, of course. Trump simply seems to believe that fewer votes gives him a better shot at winning reelection.
Impatience seems a good vice-presidential pick for Denial. Maybe we could have Disgust as a special Cabinet member.
Yes, Tuesday and the end to this campaign, can’t come fast enough. Let’s not Deny that passing this hurdle will bring us clarity and a new start.