The author is resident scholar on the American Enterprise Institute

In each US presidential election, it has turn into customary to be careful for an “October shock”: an occasion or motion within the ultimate weeks that may alter the dynamic and probably change the end result.

Days earlier than the 1972 election, Henry Kissinger, then nationwide safety adviser to Richard Nixon, introduced “peace is at hand” with Vietnam. In 2000, days earlier than the Bush/Gore election, an legal professional launched data that George W Bush had been caught in a drunk driving incident in Maine in 1976.

On this extraordinary yr, the primary October shock was a surprisingly bombastic and divisive debate performance by President Donald Trump. However a good greater shock got here sizzling on its heels with the announcement {that a} host of senators and different political figures, together with the US president and the primary girl, had examined optimistic for coronavirus after a White House event the place they mingled with principally mask-less visitors.

Individuals watch the well being and wellbeing of their chief with utmost care. If a president have been to be incapacitated or die proper earlier than an election, it will create untold drama and difficulties. So when Mr Trump was recognized with Covid-19 and rushed by helicopter to Walter Reed Medical Heart, it despatched shockwaves all over the world. When his crew of docs additionally refused to reply fundamental questions on his situation and dissembled about his well being, it brought on a outstanding stage of anger and unease among the many reporters masking him and the general public watching the spectacle.

However that anger and unease was solely starting. On Monday the president returned from hospital to the White Home. In a unprecedented efficiency, a movie of which was then posted on Twitter by Mr Trump, he emerged from his helicopter on the White Home garden, walked up steps to the second ground balcony, took off his masks and stood saluting and waving. The scene solely missed a white horse to take him to his victory perch and a army band saluting Expensive Chief.

Because the president launched a misleading and dangerous message to the general public about his potential to conquer the virus, which he stated was extra like a case of the widespread flu, his marketing campaign also released an ad displaying the president as an expert footballer vaulting over after which knocking to the bottom a defensive participant dressed as a Covid-19 molecule, and trotting to the tip zone.

Put apart the misinformation that was prone to make many Individuals much more lax about taking precautions in opposition to the lethal illness, resulting in extra circumstances and extra deaths. It seems from the record of medicines and the items of data we’ve about his situation that Mr Trump might have Covid-19 pneumonia. That will be severe, particularly for an overweight 74-year-old whose solely train is swinging a golf membership and climbing right into a golf cart to move him to the subsequent shot.

We all know, too, that the Trump White Home seems to be its personal tremendous spreader constructing, with staffers and reporters having additionally caught the virus. In the meantime, there may be the gorgeous refusal by the White Home chief of workers to impose a masks requirement on these within the constructing with a extremely contagious president, who has indicated he’ll go to Miami to debate with Joe Biden relatively than keep quarantined within the White Home household quarters.

Former presidential candidate Herman Cain caught Covid-19 shortly after attending a Trump rally the place he posted photos of himself with. After his check, he tweeted for weeks that he was doing nice. He died after a late flip for the more serious. We have no idea if Mr Trump will endure additional deterioration or ongoing side-effects. However we do know that short-term enchancment in signs might be adopted by a pointy enhance in lethal ones.

There is no such thing as a indication that Mr Trump has signed a directive turning authority over to his vice-president, Mike Pence, within the occasion he can not perform his duties — or that Mr Pence, who is continuing to travel and marketing campaign, is taking the prospect severely himself. Individuals are left questioning what occurs if the president dies or is incapacitated earlier than the election (millions have already voted, and ballots are printed in all states). The issues mushroom if he have been to die after having received the election. Questions concerning the chain of command are there not only for the US and its allies, however within the calculations of adversaries comparable to Russia, China, Iran and Isis.

The narcissistic and authoritarian impulses of Mr Trump have been there for all to see earlier than October. They’ve now reached a brand new stage of recklessness and uncertainty with Covid-19. Not the sort of October shock we would have liked or wished.

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