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    No October Surprise for the 2020 Presidential Election

    By Andrea Shorter–

    An October surprise is defined as a news event deliberately created or timed, or sometimes occurring spontaneously, to influence the outcome of an election, particularly for the U.S. presidency. In other words, it’s a big tabloid reveal or announcement aimed at upsetting or toppling an opponent’s advance or win in November. There’s nothing like a jaw-dropping October surprise to get the electorates’ attention.

    Spoiler alert: there will be no October surprise for this 2020 presidential election.

    There have been some doozie October surprises over the centuries, including accusations or rumors of an opponent being secretly Black and homosexual (FDR versus Harding), an unexpected and premature Vietnam peace agreement (incumbent Nixon), sex scandals, DUIs (Bush 43), videotaped releases showing candidates speaking badly of minority voters (Romney), or of their own self-described predatory sexual assaults on women (Trump).

    Sometimes surprises land the intended effect—there is no President Mitt Romney, for example. But sometimes they do not—we do have a President Donald Trump. While the debate continues concerning the actual effects and influence of October surprises, particularly on undecided voters one month or less before E-Day, we can expect not to expect any real October surprise for 2020.

    Why no October surprise for 2020? Because every day is an October surprise with this president. Save for confirmation or direct evidence that this president is, in fact, an official Russian asset, there appears to be little else that can be revealed by another book, high ranking official’s resignation, indictment, breaking news report, or even taped recording about Trump, his character, and his truly dangerous aims, which can possibly be of any real surprise to anyone. Sadly, even if it were confirmed that this already impeached president is compromised—a bought and paid for asset doing the bidding of a foreign arch-adversary—at this point, would anyone be that surprised?

    While Trump’s credibility as a shady businessman, impeached president, or a caring human being is shot as being a narcissist and pathological liar, frighteningly, his intended effect of confusing, casting doubt upon, and undermining any fact—scientific, historical, institutional norms, rule of law—that he sees as a disservice to his desired alternative reality is working just well enough where reporting and commenting on the harmful impacts of his presidency requires constant factchecking, deconstruction of his barrage of lies, and speculation on his possible motives. This forces by default and necessity severely adversarial relationships to President Trump, which is exactly what he desires and seeks to prove as an aspiring autocrat. Anyone who dares to question, disagree with, or rebuke him is clearly suspect: a threat, a danger, and an outright enemy to be dealt with severely.

    How can there be a real October surprise regarding this president when he has been reported to disparage our military with grave prejudice as “losers” and “suckers”? What could possibly top that? Perhaps it will be further revelation from Bob Woodward’s 9 hours of taped interviews with a president who clearly admitted to and bragged about his knowledge of the threat of COVID-19, yet purposefully misled the American people about its severity—that it could, in fact, sicken millions, take the lives of hundreds of thousands of people as it has six months after his interviews—so as to not cause panic? Who does he think he is fooling? We’re all too painfully familiar with his work. Trump lives to cause and incite panic about one thing or another that only he alone can protect Americans from caravans of rapist-killer Mexicans marauding towards the border to angry Black protestors taking over the suburbs. Ensnaring everything into his 24-7 crazy-making, level orange, def con 4 alert is his #1 hustle. Trump is panic personified.

    Fact: this president is a self-serving pathological liar and cheat at all costs. His downplaying the threat of COVID-19 had nothing to do with mitigating against widespread panic; downplaying and disregarding the threat of a pandemic had everything to do with forcefully managing reaction so as not to spoil his chance of re-election.

    We have a 1,000 person per day death toll as fact to back up that reasonable assertion. By the end of this calendar year, it is projected that nearly a quarter of one million people will have perished from COVID-19 since March 2020.

    Furthermore, if you can imagine adding more insult to injury along his No Apologies, No Regrets on COVID-19 Tour de Force, his suggestion that herd immunity (or “herd mentality,” as he clumsily refers) will save us from COVID-19 is as ghastly as his downright neglect of, and disinterest in the pandemic and its impacts. In lieu of a tested and effective vaccine, herd immunity would require at least 60 million of our 328 million populace to be exposed to the virus to organically develop the antibodies to beat the virus. Such exposure for “herd immunity” would also likely result in the deaths of approximately 6 million people. Therefore, it is a wholly irresponsible, misguided, and callous prescription for serving and protecting the American people.

    If there is any October surprise concerning Trump, it will be a countdown towards election without one commentator, one politician, one doctor, and one activist summing up this president’s actions and inactions regarding COVID-19 as bordering on genocidal.

    Is genocidal a hyperbolic inference? Trump’s gloat begs the question: what does one call a president who knowingly, calculatedly, deliberately, and forcefully misleads, misinforms, disrupts, disputes, and disregards what he privately acknowledges and accepts as clear scientific facts of a looming deadly pandemic upon his own people? Is there a threshold for how many people have to die largely due to his admitted deception and lies before we examine the consequences as genocidal? Is it 250,000 people? 500,000? One million?

    Mistakenly mismanaging what should be critical response to a life-threatening public health crisis is one thing. Intentionally misleading and misinforming a public facing a clear and present life-threatening pandemic for his own self-serving political interests? Criminal. Genocidal.

    What isn’t hyperbolic about Trump or his presidency? Very little. What is credible about Trump or his presidency? Nothing. Little else can be presented as a surprise finding about the ridiculousness or dangers of a Trump presidency. Trump hyperbole might be the new normal—for now.

    A president whose purposeful deceptions and delusions knowingly result in massive deaths of Americans not in wartime is unspeakable. Trump’s October surprise started months ago when he actively decided to lie, rather than lead, to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths from a pandemic. Trump should not be surprised when he is certifiably voted out of the White House in November.

    Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights and marriage equality. A Co-Founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

    Published on September 24, 2020