In this second installment of the two-part series analyzing the 2020 election season, political scientist Dr. Wilmer Leon continues the discussion with The Washington Informer newspaper to discuss the future of the presidency and issues of monumental concern to Americans going into the final vote. The 2020 election season is like none other in recent history and mimics strongly that of the 1920 elections that similarly saw racial and social unrest, a flu pandemic, and a gripping financial downturn. Leon offers insight here into what got us here and what will hopefully set the nation on a sure course of recovery:
WI: Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order recently [EO 13950: Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping] that target groups that malign others or blame them collectively for racism. Does such legislation have political bite?
LEON: What Donald Trump is doing with his Executive Orders is demonstrating to his base that he is here to protect your whiteness. And whether the Executive Orders have any substance or any legislative validity, matters but not as much as the symbolism. It is the symbolism that counts. I had someone ask me today, ‘How do you explain all of these white folks who support Trump even though it’s to their own detriment?’ And I said, it is because it is not about him; it’s about what he represents and what he speaks to. One of the big mistakes that a lot of us have made is that we have focused on Trump as a person and we are losing sight of him as an image. It is the image – what he represents to those who are his base that gives meaning to the Executive Orders. It is a message to the Wolverine Boys and the Proud Boys or whoever these people are that he supports them. Trump is speaking and they are listening and responding. Look at what happened in Florida, people passing out from heat exhaustion and then a week or so later, his supporters in Omaha were stranded in frigid temperatures having to be rushed to the hospital with hypothermia because they believe the image.
WI: What is the most pressing issue the nation faces, irrespective of who wins the election?
LEON: Domestically, COVID-19 because there are so many things, tangentially, that are tied to that that you cannot fix the economy until you fix COVID-19; you can’t fix the health system until you fix COVID-19. If the projections that I am reading that 3,000 people a day are expected to die from this virus – we are already entering into a space wherein places like Nebraska, Texas, and in Arizona the health care system is overwhelmed again. They are running out of beds, again. Economies cannot open when you have problems getting people to work and customers out to purchase things. So, while Trump wants to tout how wonderful the economy is doing, well that is a fiction. What he is not articulating is that there are two economies.
There is the financialized economy, which is the stocks side of things — the Wall Street, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs side, that is doing incredibly well. But that’s not because average Americans are doing well. That is because the federal government provided zero-interest loans to all of these companies – they borrowed to the hilt at zero interest, so they’re sitting on record amounts of cash and what they’re doing with the cash is buying back their stock to keep the stock price artificially high. It is going to bottom out. It has to bottom out, but they are like drunks who think the bottle will not empty. They are paying their CEOs and CFOs record bonuses and then filing for bankruptcy. There was an article last week that said J.C. Penney and several other companies before filing for bankruptcy paid their executives record six- and seven-figure bonuses. They then filed for bankruptcy. In fact, a lot of the money from the COVID-19 relief package went first to businesses through the federal government as zero-interest loans.
If you have a 401(k), you are as happy as a clam; however, if you are a part of the real economy — that is in the toilet. The second economy is the consumer economy. We are a consumption-based economy since we no longer make or manufacture anything. Again, these businesses are sitting on record amounts of cash, while 750,000 Americans a week in this country apply for unemployment. We have to rein this in or face additional health and economic devastation.
WI: But what does this mean on the ground? Legislatively it may appear one way, but how linked are the COVID-19 pandemic and the U.S. economy?
LEON: Again, COVID-19 is the most pressing issue because it devastates on the health side, as well as on the economy. You cannot fix the economy until you figure out a cure for COVID-19. There was research recently that examined what the cancellation of Thanksgiving and now, Christmas will do to turkey farmers. That is just one data point that demonstrates what it means for a segment of the nation’s workers. What will the lack of work and shopping because of COVID-19 mean for Black Friday sales? I am not going into some store looking for a bargain on a television set. The turkey farmers are just one example. But consider that we have taken family trips to New York for the Christmas holidays to visit other relatives. Those family members have already made it clear that we are not to come this year so that no one risks becoming ill. All of the spending that is related to the holidays in now just not happening and this will also contribute greatly to the consumer economy’s frailty.
WI: What would four more years under Trump look like to you?
LEON: In August of this year, two retired lieutenant colonels sent a note to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, saying you do realize that you are going to have to go in and get this fool. They also said you need to make a public statement now letting him know that we will come get you. We will follow the Constitution and get you out if need be. Political commentator Tom Porter very aptly put it when he said, people need to understand that they are not voting for [Democratic presidential nominee Joe] Biden, you are voting against fascism.
Make America Great Again is very eerily similar to Benito Mussolini saying, “Make Italy Great Again.” Drain the swamp from Donald Trump is eerily reminiscent of Mussolini saying drain the swamp in Italy. This guy is a stone-cold fascist and people have made the reference to Hitler and everyone hates Hitler references because it seems so rhetorical and so over the top – and most of the time it is. But when you look at the history of the Weimar Republic and you look at the history of what happened to Jews in Germany… a lot of Jews said it can happen here and it is happening here.
Four more years of this, I cannot imagine or quantify it or describe it other than to say, it would be horrific. This guy will then come to believe that there is nothing he cannot do, and it will be validated by the American people. It will convince the types of people that showed up in Charlottesville with guns that they were right.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is a nationally broadcast radio talk show host on SiriusXM Satellite radio channel 126, nationally syndicated columnist, and regular political commentator on national and international news programs. A graduate of both Hampton University (BS in Political Science) and Howard University (Ph.D. in Political Science), Leon is the author of Politics, Another Perspective: Commentary and Analysis on Race, War, Ethics, and the American Political Landscape.