In Depth

Instant Opinion: Donald Trump ‘doesn’t know what democracy is’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Friday 31 July

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Jamelle Bouie in The New York Times

on the death of a civil rights icon 

Trump Doesn’t Know What Democracy Is. John Lewis Embodied It.

“Just a few hours before Lewis’s funeral in Atlanta, President Trump denounced mail-in voting, in one of his now regular attempts to delegitimize the upcoming election. He also raised the idea of pushing the election back, to another date. ‘With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote??’ There’s no legal way the president can delay or postpone the election. Its date is set by state and federal law and moving it would require a herculean political effort. Trump lacks the patience or capacity to coordinate. But that doesn’t mean his language isn’t dangerous. Trump is sowing chaos. He’s undermining public faith in the election process and building a constituency of supporters who will treat any result short of his re-election as evidence of fraud and misconduct.”

2. Andrew Feinberg in The Independent

on not assuming Trump is as ‘dumb as he seems’

Trump's tweet about delaying the election is just the beginning of a much more dangerous plan

“The only way to foreclose the possibility of such a Trumpian end-run around democracy, Republican consultant Rick Wilson said, is for November’s election to be ‘a massive, cataclysmic earthquake that completely destroys Donald Trump’. ‘It’s got to be such an electoral college beatdown that is so severe that people speak of it in harsh tones for 100 years,’ he said before adding that Trump’s suggestion of delaying the election is likely to create a backlash in the form of more voter registrations by people opposed to him. But Wilson is confident that that such a ‘beatdown’ will occur and will preclude any attempt to characterise the result as fraudulent: ‘We’re negative-30-plus percent GDP, we’ve got 150,000 dead Americans and probably 200,000 by Election Day, we’ve got a rampant pandemic that is destroying the health of people in an economic disaster that’s destroying their welfare and economic well-being. And he [Trump] is responsible for many of the aspects of those things, so he’s paying a price for being a f**k-up.’”

3. Devi Sridhar, professor and chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, in The Guardian

on the government’s late night lockdown

The northern lockdown represents government failure. There is a better way

“More than 4 million people in the north of England woke up on Friday morning to the news that coronavirus restrictions were being reimposed. This follows the local lockdown in Leicester. Such measures are entirely predictable and a glimpse of the pattern of lockdown and release that will occur over the coming weeks and months as the government attempts to avoid a second peak in infections. While it might be an effective way to stop the spread of the infection once it has got out of hand, the government’s whack-a-mole approach will slowly strangle the economy, as small businesses collapse under the uncertainty and larger ones have to let people go. It will also undermine social cohesion, as increasing numbers of people refuse to abide by what they see as capricious, complicated rulings. To fix this, the government needs to look six to eight months ahead and make a clear plan... In short, lockdowns should be a last-resort measure when the frontline outbreak responders – the local testing and tracing teams – can no longer suppress the infection sufficiently.”

4. Katy Balls in The Spectator

on dissent in the Commons

MPs are starting to question the local lockdown strategy

“Boris Johnson’s policy of local lockdowns will no doubt come under increased scrutiny after new restrictions were imposed on Greater Manchester and parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire. Labour politicians have been quick to criticise the short notice of the overnight announcement while local residents have complained of confusion over the changes. It comes at a time of growing unease among MPs about the local lockdown strategy itself. While the plan to go for local lockdowns as a way of avoiding a second national lockdown has been largely welcomed by the public, some believe that sentiment could change quickly – when voters find themselves placed in one. ‘It’s like public support for tax rises,’ says one Tory MP. ‘People say they back them because they don’t think they’ll be the ones paying. People support local lockdowns until they are the ones in it.’”

5. Philip Collins in The Times

on capping donations to improve democracy

Big money politics is ripe for funding reform

“If every party donor were like Stuart Wheeler then British politics would have no funding problem. But they are not and it does. Mr Wheeler, who died last week, was generous with his fortune in pursuit of causes he championed but, in his singular and remarkable way, he wanted nothing in return beyond victory for his ideas. When Mr Wheeler offered £5 million to William Hague’s Conservative Party in 2001 it was on the strict condition that he should receive no honour, direct influence or favour of any kind. Few donors, however, have such pure motives. Most gifts to political parties are offered on the basis that there should be a return. The exchange is never explicit and very often donors end up disappointed. But there is no doubt that many donations are offered in the hope that a place in the House of Lords, or some favourable policy, might be forthcoming.”

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