The excesses which are marking the end of the Trump era in the United States are symptomatic of something wider - the total failure of good governance. Decent government is all about making choices, taking decisions between or amongst competing interests and pressures. It’s about how you best use scarce resources for the greatest good for the greatest number. It’s about how you look after the weakest in society while not necessarily disadvantaging the better off or more competent. It’s about balancing off the short-term against the medium and long term; about ignoring popularity in favour of statesmanship while always being conscious of the fundamental electoral foundations of good democracy. It’s a complex business; which is why governments get things wrong from time to time; why they change course on occasion.
Trump, dictators of all kinds, ignore those delicate balances and sensibilities being certain that they are always right. He has taken it to absurd lengths by denying the undeniable fact that he lost the Election. It’s like Chemical Ali (or 'Comical Ali' as he turned out to be) broadcasting Saddam’s triumph as the American tanks rumbled into Baghdad.
Some of my Covid correspondents exhibit some of the same characteristics. There are the conspiracy theorists (QAnon and the Illuminati); there are the extreme deniers “Covid does not exist; it’s a figment of someone’s imagination; it’s no worse than a dose of flu”; there are the anti vaxxers ; there are the extreme libertarians who object to face masks and lockdowns; there are those with clear (if often incorrect ) views about the best way to roll out the vaccine; about how their military expertise from many years ago gives them expertise on testing regimes and how to make them work. It’s amazing how many expert epidemiologists and logisticians there are around; and astonishing how much their proven expertise so often fundamentally differs from the next correspondent with equally sound credentials.
The fact is that defeating this Pandemic is not a matter of conviction, nor of dogmatism; it’s a matter of flexibility, quick thinking determination to meet the enemy on its own ground and deploying whatever resources may be necessary. It’s the virus that’s in charge. It changes, mutates, flares, and the Government has to be ready to change its approach accordingly.
The fact is that we are in a straight race. It’s Virus Versus the Vaccine. We have to get enough people vaccinated before the virus overwhelms the hospitals. There are some signs that Lockdown may be starting to work - certainly in London and the South East with infection figures levelling off just a bit. Sadly, hospitalisations and deaths lag behind by perhaps a couple of weeks, so we will not see their peak until February, by which time substantial numbers of people will have been vaccinated.
So we have to hold our nerve. Strain every sinew to get the vaccine out. Observe the rules to the nth degree - avoiding if possible all human contact for another month or so. In everything we do we must presume either that we are asymptomatic and therefore a potential spreader, or that the person we are meeting may be. Either we or they have Covid and we must treat each other with all due respect as a result.
Trump is ignoring the realities of life. We must not do so.