To save the boat, we must throw Trump overboard
A made-for-TV captain on a very troubled ship. | Trump photo: AP / S.S. United States photo: Brian W. Schaller / Wikimedia Commons

In the last century, the African-American lawmaker Shirley Chisholm made history when she ran for president—the first Black woman to do so in a major party. During her campaign, she often repeated the mantra, “We may have gotten here on different boats, but we’re all in the same boat now.” The passengers on the boat she was referring to were all part of the great big multi-racial, multi-national U.S. working class and anyone else doing battle in the interest of that class.

Today, Donald Trump’s mis-leadership has ensured that the boat Shirley Chisholm was talking about is now packed to the rafters with at least 99% of the people of the U.S.—the entire working class and many others too who are in danger along with them.

The entire world, really, is in a state of emergency because of the man inhabiting the White House.

Former President Barack Obama, last weekend, talked about what all of us in this boat are facing today. He made the following remarks in an address to graduates of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities: “More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”

His shocking and radical remarks were aimed squarely at the captain of our ship, Donald Trump, and his entourage of sycophants and hangers-on. No former president has ever condemned in such sharp terms his successor in the White House. And Obama threw out the normal reservations former presidents have about criticizing their successors because he knows the boat is sinking.

Obama’s description of the navigation abilities of Captain Trump and his crew accurately described their abilities.

The world has watched how Trump and his inner circle barricaded themselves in the captain’s cabin in the early months as they saw huge icebergs popping up around them—icebergs that could eventually rip catastrophic holes in the hull of the boat.

They figured that if the worst did happen, it would be only the people in steerage and on the bottom decks who would drown. Folks at the top would stay dry, they absurdly told themselves. After all, this is the biggest and best boat in the world.

This big boat had weathered storms before, including the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II. And yes, it is true, this boat often stayed afloat and sometimes navigated the choppy waters even better after some of those crises. The difference these days, of course, is that Trump, not an FDR or a Lincoln, is our captain now.

Once the first of those icebergs tore a big hole in the hull, bringing the coronavirus on board, Captain Trump decided he had to do something, at least some small thing.

He sent some of his crew down below to pump out some of the water that was rushing in but mounted no plan to repair the hole in the hull. He offered a “15 days to bend the curb” TV show and launched Twitter campaigns and tirades against China.

Years ago, in the last drive-in still operating in northern New Jersey, I saw the film “Independence Day,” a movie in which a strong president gave a powerful speech about how the human race needed to come together under his leadership so alien invaders would not succeed in extinguishing humanity. I had forgotten all about that movie until I saw, last weekend, a video of the film tweeted out by Trump.

The perverse video had Trump’s face superimposed on Bill Pullman’s body (Pullman was the actor who played the fictitious hero president). The soldiers who the Independence Day president addressed in the movie had on them the super-imposed faces of Trump sycophants, including a crying Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity, and Ivanka Trump.

The video displayed clear proof of what Obama talked about in his speech last Saturday. It was Trump, rather than addressing the danger to the nation, putting on another TV show re-imagining himself as a heroic wartime leader when, in comparison to real heroic wartime presidents like FDR and Lincoln, he is a pathetic loser.

We have a president who ignored numerous warnings from his intelligence agencies. We have a president who dismisses and gets rid of anyone who offers reality-based proposals to deal with the pandemic and who trusts only a tiny group of dangerous pretenders who parrot his own ineffective and dangerous ideas. His top and most trusted advisers in this time of national and worldwide crisis are his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.

Kushner, a failed real estate developer who has had to borrow millions from corrupt kings and international gangsters to keep his properties afloat, was allowed to ignore and even dismantle an infrastructure that could have been ta powerful response to the pandemic—an infrastructure and a plan handed over to Trump by the outgoing Obama administration.

Trump likes the Kushner approach because it is like his approach: Do nothing meaningful about controlling the pandemic. As the infection rate and deaths surged from March through April, Trump followed the Kushner plan—just go on TV and pretend you are doing something. Every time the news gets worse, just throw another fake response plan onto the TV show.

Now we see Part II of the Kushner response. As soon as some areas showed evidence of a plateau in the death rate (not a significant decrease but just a plateau of the continuing death rate), Trump launched his latest series about how he is heading up a historic transition of the entire nation “back to greatness,” a greatness he had achieved for us before the onslaught of that nasty virus.

“Vaccine or no vaccine, America is back,” Trump declared as he kicked off this new phase of his TV extravaganza. “We’re back, and we are going to be greater than ever.”

Not a word about the up to 50 million unemployed, the continuing spread of the virus, or the danger of new outbreaks. “We are back again,” is what we hear instead. No plan to protect workers, nothing.

The people, of course, (and that means all of us in this same boat), no longer expect Trump to do anything but make things worse when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. So we struggle to keep afloat. We flatten the infection curve as best as we can so hospitals can take in our loved ones and perhaps ourselves, if necessary, by not being overwhelmed at once with too many sick people. We fight for justice for frontline workers. We lobby lawmakers for stimulus programs and relief. Many of the nation’s governors are grappling with the crisis, some more effectively than others.

Some responsible small businesses are rejecting the idea that they should be guinea pigs in schemes to reopen prematurely. They can see that big corporate businesses like Disney World are not jumping back into operation and are seeking protection against lawsuits. Why should they, the small businesses, be the only ones risking the lives of themselves and their customers while the CEOs of big corporate businesses stay safe at home?

Democratic lawmakers have passed a $3 trillion “Heroes” bill backed by labor and its allies and are putting pressure on Republicans to act.

Scientists and doctors, meanwhile, are working day and night to develop a vaccine.

No one then is waiting for Trump. He cannot be counted on to help out in any way. He can only be expected to continue his TV show and to modify that show whenever necessary to help his re-election campaign.

Since so many have stepped up to battle the pandemic, some think that perhaps it is not too important to worry about who we have in the White House. The country can survive, they say, without worrying about who we have in the White House. I’ve heard even the hardest-working frontline health care workers express this view. Eventually, they say, Trump will be gone.

This is a dangerous view, one that ignores our history.

Throw Trump overboard in November. | AP photo

Who we have as our president will determine whether we survive this coronavirus pandemic—just as who we had as president determined whether there would be a Civil Rights Act, whether we would defeat fascism in World War II, or whether slavery would be defeated in the Civil War much earlier in our history.

Defeating the virus will require a high level of international cooperation. This cannot be provided without a strong U.S. presidential leadership committed to that goal. Trump cannot and will not provide that leadership.

Nature abhors a vacuum. As Trump does nothing but TV shows, the vacuum is being filled by capitalists and right-wingers who are using his inaction on the virus to restructure America along their lines, lines that are not in the interest of the working-class majority. Let’s relieve big corporations of ever having to worry about lawsuits, they say. Send people to their deaths. It’s no problem. See how well Wall Street is doing? This immoral approach cannot be ended unless Trump is removed.

As always, mass action has steered history in our country as it has all around the world. Today that mass action, as it has at critical times in our past, must be directed very specifically at removing a failed leader from the White House. Our democracy and our lives are at stake. Throw Trump overboard in November.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.