On Oct. 2, the White House announced President Donald Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 and would receive care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. During the two days he spent in hospital, many Democrats respectfully wished the president a speedy recovery. I don’t believe, however, that he was deserving of such respect. Trump is a reprehensible person who has harmed millions, and he is entitled to no compassion whatsoever.
The news that Trump has tested positive should be no shock. He has repeatedly held indoor rallies with thousands of spectators and has regularly downplayed the need for masks. After the announcement, numerous Democrats tweeted to signal their respect, wishing for Trump’s recovery. These include former Vice President Joe Biden, who also decided to take down all ads attacking Trump, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. If he were just another colleague across the aisle, this behavior would be tolerated and possibly laudable. But Trump is nothing of the sort and does not deserve anything akin to respect.
Trump has consistently flouted the public health guidelines meant to mitigate the pandemic. He has refused to wear a mask in public, held large gatherings and failed to heed social distancing procedures, even during the pandemic’s peak. These choices not only put him and the people he interacts with at risk, but also the millions of Americans who follow and listen to him. A recent Cornell University (N.Y.) study has found that he is the largest driver of pandemic-related misinformation. When Trump makes false claims about COVID-19 or ignores safety precautions, his followers listen and believe as much. How many of the 200,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 would be alive if not for him?
He also flirts with white supremacy, thereby lending credence to racism. During the first presidential debate, Trump refused to condemn white nationalism, and instead told the Proud Boys, a group the FBI labels as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism,” to “stand back and stand by.” Many in the group were encouraged and have even adopted the phrase as a slogan, believing they will be called to action soon. Considering the upcoming election and Trump’s attempts to preemptively discredit the results, this rhetoric is extremely worrying. We also must not forget that in 2017, Trump called the white supremacists marching in the neo-nazi “Unite the Right” rally “very fine people.”
Far-right groups have seen Trump’s election and the success of his reactionary rhetoric as a vindication of their beliefs. This has enabled many white nationalist hate groups to swell their ranks during the Trump era. Back in February, the FBI designated the threat of far-right terrorism level as equivalent to that posed by the Islamic State.
Trump and his policies on climate change have also potentially cost millions of future lives. The window for keeping rising temperatures to just 2 degrees Celsius is quickly closing, and the results could be catastrophic if temperatures exceed that threshold by even 1 degree Celsius. Trump has done nothing to avert this disaster. In fact, he has actively exacerbated it. He announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement in June 2017 and rolled back the methane climate standards in August 2020, allowing oil companies to pollute freely. Michael Mann, a renowned climatologist, declared that another Trump term would be “game over” for saving the planet.
Finally, Trump is responsible for the gross human rights violations committed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE has detained an estimated 15,000 migrant children, separating them from their families and denying them proper accommodations. These children are in abusive conditions, at risk of sexual assault and poorly accounted for, such as when ICE lost track of 1,500 migrant children in 2018. This even earned his administration condemnation from the United Nations. More recently, ICE has been accused of performing forced hysterectomies on immigrant women in their facilities. The act of forcibly sterilizing members of an overwhelmingly Latinx immigrant population is dictatorial.
Trump is a terrible person who has incalculably damaged minorities, immigrants and the planet’s future. He is not a normal politician entitled to a degree of respect — he is a dangerous occupant of the White House. For all of the pain and suffering that he has caused for this country, he deserves no sympathy.
Martin Shane Li (22Ox, 24C) is from Rockville, Maryland.