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Trump nearing a dead end on 5th Avenue

By Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Donald Trump boasted in 2016.

Trump’s 5th Avenue principle is being severely tested. Some 40 percent of voters have stuck by him even though more than 214,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. It’s one of the world’s highest death rates — due in part to Trump initially downplaying its dangers, then refusing responsibility for it, promoting quack remedies for it, muzzling government experts on it, pushing states to reopen despite it, and discouraging people from wearing masks.

They’ve stuck by him even after he turned the White House into a hotspot for the virus, even after he caught it himself, and even after he asserted just days ago that it’s less lethal than the flu. A recent nonpartisan study concluded that Trump’s blatant disinformation has been the largest driver of COVID-19 misinformation in the world.

They’ve stuck by him even as more than 11 million Americans have lost their jobs, 40 million risk eviction from their homes, 14 million have lost health insurance, and almost one out of five Americans with kids at home cannot afford to adequately feed their children.

They’ve stuck by him even though more Americans have sought unemployment benefits this year than voted for him in 2016, even after Trump cut off talks on economic relief, even as he’s pushing the Supreme Court to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause 20 million more to lose health insurance.

Trump is, in effect, standing in the middle of 5th Avenue, killing Americans. Yet here we are, just a few weeks before the election, and his supporters haven’t budged. The latest polls show him with 40 percent to 43 percent of voters, while Joe Biden has a bare majority.

 

The most egregious test of Trump’s 5th Avenue principle is still to come, when he tries to kill off American democracy. He’s counting on his supporters to keep him in power even after he loses the popular vote.

He’s ready to claim that mail-in ballots, made necessary by the pandemic, are rife with “fraud like you’ve never seen,” as he asserted during his debate with Biden — although it’s been shown that Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud.

Alleging fraud, he’ll likely dispute election results in any Republican-led state that he loses by a small margin — such as Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin.

Then he’ll rely on the House of Representatives to put him over the top.

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