CJ Werleman explores the threats to Americans’ lives and that of their democracy which show no sign of diminishing soon

Monday officially marks the start of the northern Winter and the final 30 days of the calamitous and scandal-ridden presidency of Donald Trump. But, if the events of Autumn foretell the future, then today is the start of what promises to be the darkest winter in living memory – with American citizens under siege from daily record-breaking COVID-19 infection and death rates, and American democracy from an outgoing president contemplating a military coup and revenge.

On Friday, as reported by The New York Times, Trump convened a meeting at the White House with the disgraced general Michael Flynn, conspiracy theory-obsessed lawyer Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, in which he considered extra-judicial measures to overturn the result of the 2020 Presidential Election – including a military coup – after Flynn had first floated the idea of Trump invoking the Insurrection Act, implementing martial law and suspending civil rights during a recent Fox News interview.

Flynn told Trump he should use the military to overturn the election result and then hold a “re-run” of voting in the battleground states won by Joe Biden – an unconstitutional and anti-democratic move that even “terrified” the law and norm-defying Giuliani, who the day before had unlawfully demanded the Department of Homeland Security turn over its voting machines, according to others present in the meeting.

An outgoing President of the United States considering a military coup to preserve his rule is an unprecedented moment in history, prompting heads of the US military to make an unprecedented pronouncement about its role in defending and supporting the Constitution, democracy and the rule of law.

“There is no role for the US military in determining the outcome of an American election,” said Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff General James McConville in a joint statement in response to The New York Times report.

But it is a somewhat natural conclusion to an administration that has become a halfway house for grifters, felons, crackpots and conspiracy theorists.

According to numerous reports from White House sources, Trump has sidelined advisors, aides and friends who have tried to encourage him towards accepting defeat, while elevating and amplifying those who continue to indulge his dangerous and vengeful fantasies.

“Most of us have rolled our eyes at the media histrionics the last few years about Trump’s supposed tyrannical ambitions, but when he’s retweeting threats of putting politicians in jail, and spends his time talking to conspiracy nuts who openly say declaring martial law is no big deal, it’s impossible not to start getting anxious about how this ends,” a senior White House administration official told Axios.

It is an anxiety exacerbated by Trump’s motivation to desperately avoid criminal and civil lawsuits and investigations. As others have commented, his re-election campaign was less about running for a second term and more about running from jail.

Then there’s the Coronavirus, a pandemic that has now taken 325,000 American lives at a current rate of one death every 30 seconds – a rate that is growing exponentially and is resulting in more than 3,000 people dying each and every day. At this rate, the daily death toll in America will hit 6,000 people by the end of January.

The virus is transmitting at such a rate that a full 1% of the US population has become infected during the past two weeks – 3.5 million Americans. Given that COVID-19 kills 20,000 people for every one million it infects, the country can now expect a further 70,000 people to be added to the already calamitous death toll in the coming weeks.

It’s not just the number of infections and deaths that worry public health experts, however, but also the trajectory of infection and deaths. California, for instance, hit a record high of 35,000 deaths on 14 December before accelerating to 61,000 deaths the following day. It will no doubt get worse with Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching.

“It’s getting worse,” tweeted former Obama administration healthcare lead Andy Slavitt. “The people dying today got infected before Thanksgiving. Before people infected their families. And Thanksgiving was a sh*tshow by all accounts.

“If things continue as they are – full hospitals, threats of strikes, PPE running out – and very soft, late, in enforced public health measures – what we are experiencing now will get much worse.”

Help is coming in the form of a vaccine, but even if more than 70% of Americans agree to have it, respite from this current level of infection and death won’t come until the Spring and possibly later.

In the meantime, the President has given up talking about the virus, except when he’s falsely claiming to have played a part in the development of the vaccine, all the while encouraging his supporters to carry out acts of political violence to avenge his defeat.

It will be a dark winter – with the next 30 days the darkest of them all.


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