As The Tablet goes to print, President Donald Trump is in his fifth day of battling the coronavirus. Studies show that many COVID-19 patients suddenly deteriorate after 7-10 days of contracting the coronavirus.
We have seen messages from political rivals like Joe Biden wishing him and the first lady well. One of the president’s harshest critics, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow tweeted: “God bless the president and the first lady. If you pray, please pray for their speedy and complete recovery — and everyone infected, everywhere. This virus is horrific and merciless — no one would wish its wrath on anyone.”
It was a refreshing moment in the middle of an election season of constant bickering and hateful commentary from both sides of the political spectrum. If you support President Trump, you should pray for his recovery. If you don’t support him, you should pray for him all the same. It is the Christian thing to do. It is the decent thing to do.
The hateful messages we see on social media these days could be read as a sign of how polarizing this president is, but they are primarily a sign of the times we live in — of how much our society has become divided during recent years.
One would hope that they are moved by human solidarity more than personal or political discrepancies. The possibility of the president becoming gravely sick should be a cause of concern for anyone who loves this nation. Especially at this time, so close to election day, a president who is sick or incapacitated could put the whole country in a political, and even a constitutional, crisis.
Thousands of people have already voted. Millions of ballots have been printed and mailed. What would happen if the president is shown to be incapable of performing the duties of his office a week before November 3? Would anyone wish for our country to go through this scenario?
If the president is too sick to run during the coming weeks or to assume his office if reelected, the chaos that could ensue could have profound — and undesirable — consequences.
The Supreme Court right now has only eight active justices. The two houses of Congress are controlled by different parties. The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging on. Racial tensions continue to be an explosive issue. The economy is in crisis and the deficit is out of control. We don’t need a constitutional crisis now.
At the same time, more and more people in this country seem to think that winning the election is a do-or-die task. Under that vision, any means to a win are acceptable.
During recent years, we have seen a growing number of people expressing opinions at odds with the basic rules of democracy. On both sides of the political spectrum, there is a growing number of people saying that the election of the other party’s candidate would be the end of America as we know it. They no longer talk about how their candidate has a better plan for the future of the country.
They think the candidate on the other side will probably destroy the institutions that made America the most successful democratic experiment in the history of the world. In some cases, those dystopian fears could be just a cynical political tool to
energize the base. But there is no doubt that those feelings millions of American express are genuine. We are divided by our antithetical fears.
It is appropriate to paraphrase FDR and say that while we are divided by fear of two different perceived threats to American democracy, the only thing we should fear is division itself.
Yes, let us pray for our president, and let us pray for America.