On October 2, President Donald Trump announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for Covid-19. Since then, there has been massive speculation regarding the validity and gravity of his sickness, ranging from theories that Trump’s diagnosis is a ruse in an attempt to collect more votes, to the possibility that he intends to use his experience with the illness to bolster his claim that Covid-19 is not an extreme issue.
But amidst all the theories, there lies a myriad of important questions. In response to those questions, the President’s physician, Sean Conley, has provided evasive answers as to how long Trump has had Covid-19, who he may have transmitted it to, and the seriousness of his condition. Due to the efforts of the Trump administration to prevent any information from getting out, there has been an escalation of tensions and emotions regarding Donald Trump’s health. It is the citizens’ right to be given open and accurate information about the condition of our leader.
The lack of information regarding Donald Trump’s diagnosis and condition is extremely unethical, since the President breaks the precedent set by past presidents such as Reagan, who faced health dilemmas and benefits from concealing this information. There have been approximately 210,000 deaths because of Covid-19 in America, many of which could have been prevented by solid leadership that promoted social distancing, masking, and testing to prevent the spread of the virus, as proven by the reduction of cases in New Zealand, led by the Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. Trump has failed to take accountability for these deaths even while realizing the severity of the virus. This is likely an effort to maintain peace and blind trust among his followers.
Traditionally, when presidents have found themselves in health crises, they have been relatively open in disclosing information regarding their condition. For instance, during the few days following the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, media sources were able to receive and communicate information about the President’s wound. One article from April 1, 1981 went in depth about how “doctors released Reagan after an X-ray taken yesterday morning showed the remaining trace of the bullet wound in his lung looking much improved.” This implies that the reporter was able to receive Reagan’s X-Ray or that the President communicated this information with them. In either case, the media was provided with much more information than Trump is divulging. In 2020, with President Trump allegedly having a virus potentially as deadly as a gun wound, even Fox News can only give the people desperate justifications for President Trump’s failure to communicate with the people.
In the past few days, Trump has been involved in scandals regarding his tax evasion, which is a significant rationale for encouraging mass confusion as to his actual condition. The longer the topic of his ailment lingers, the less attention there will be on his 750 dollar tax payment. His secrecy about symptoms and vitality is not excusable. His illness is causing hysteria on both sides of the playing field; Republicans and Democrats alike have had a notable shift in approach to the upcoming election. Some of the consequences of the diagnosis include Joe Biden refraining from attack ads in his campaign, while the Republicans are garnering public sympathy for the President. Trump has an obsession with preserving his public image, as proven by the desperate concealment of his tax reports which would make him a criminal in the eyes of the public and the law. Voters are particularly divided during this election, with the rights of so many marginalized people on the brink of destruction. An election result to Trump could indicate a loss of abortion rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, and laws that are intended to protect people of color. Withholding or altering information will therefore directly influence the vote, which is an unethical way to gain followers or make the opposing side lose followers.
The information that has been shared with the public was only disclosed because it trickled out of the administration accidentally. For instance, the contradictory reports of how Trump is faring with his illness was caused by leaks to journalists. There is a distinction between knowledge being shared willingly and controversial pieces of information that cannot ever be fully reliable. The Trump administration’s failure to communicate openly with the people indicates that something is being hidden, and the lack of faith that many people in the United States have in the President is a sign of poor leadership in general. If the people cannot trust who they are getting the information from, then the information is essentially useless. As the Washington Post’s slogan states, “Democracy dies in darkness.” Right now, as a country, we are struggling through the obscure darkness. It is up to those with power in the government to seek a flame so that our democracy does not perish.