In other countries, leaders set an example by maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. I don't understand why it is different when it comes specifically to Republicans and Trump.

During the Amy Coney Barrett event in the WH, people sat as close as they can to each other, and there are videos of people hugging and not maintaining social distance when in closed rooms.

The Trump family also refused to wear masks during the debate even though they were asked to do so and were offered masks.

Why? What does Trump have to gain from putting himself in risk 1 month before the elections? I honestly don't understand it because it looks like he doesn't get any political gains from looking like he and his family doesn't care + he increases the risk of contracting COVID.


This question was not asked to "discredit" Trump, I honestly didn't understand his motivations behind standing aggressively against masks/social distancing.

  • What does Trump have to gain by denying this from the start? Wouldn't it have been a better show of leadership to take action sooner?
    – Joe W
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 14:00
  • I thought that he downplayed COVID originally because he did not believe it's a serious risk, but what's the point of hiding it now?
    – asaf92
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 14:35
  • 1
    Not according to recordings of him with Bob Woodward where he talks about it being much worse than he was claiming. vox.com/2020/9/15/21437802/…
    – Joe W
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 15:04
  • 3
    This is really just asking for a speculation about motives. There might be a better way to phrase this in the form of asking about the potential benefits and risks to doing this. Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 15:18
  • You really can't understand this without understanding the psychology of Trump the individual, and a pattern of behaviour that goes back long before he became active in politics. As such, any honest answer is going to discredit Trump, and probably would get deleted, so trying to answer would be a waste of time. But read e.g. Mary Trump's book about him.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 16:03

2 Answers 2


Trump essentially backed himself into a corner. According to his own words in the Bob Woodward interview he knew the risks about covid-19 but he chose to downplay them publicly. This may be speculation but it appears as though he did so in order to avoid any harm to the economy in an election year, the state of which he has repeatedly touted as a major accomplishment of his administration. The result of this is that the response to covid-19 became highly politicised, with Republicans largely ignoring health experts as a show of support to Trump.

Now with over 200k Americans dead and rising, for Trump to change his attitude and start taking the advice of health experts would be to admit that he was wrong and that the approach he has taken was wrong. Trump is highly unlikely to do that and, as he has done in the past, prefers to double down on his stance and go even further in that direction. Hence the resumption of large rallies, the lack of social distancing, the lack of masks and in fact the mocking of people who have taken the situation more seriously.

He is not doing it so much for political gain, but rather to avoid political loss by admitting his mistakes and doing what he has mocked Democrats for doing for the past 6 months.

  • Did he mock democrats in the last 6 months for wearing masks?
    – asaf92
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 14:46
  • 9
    Yes, repeatedly. Here is a recent example from the Presidential debate last week (I'll add it to the answer as a reference) - businessinsider.com/…
    – ewanc
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 14:48
  • I saw the example in the debate, but he also showed that he has a mask. My question is were the Republicans mocking Democrats for wearing masks during the past 6 months?
    – asaf92
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 14:49
  • 7
    Here's another example from June: dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8576607/… Another from May: business-standard.com/article/international/… There are many more such examples
    – ewanc
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 14:51
  • @asaf92 Why are you so reluctant to take the evidence that has been shown about his actions and beliefs on this in the past?
    – Joe W
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 15:06

Trump — like all authoritarian nationalists — insists on a 'strong-man' image in public. He wants to project strength, vitality, virility, self-assuredness, fearlessness, bold aggression, and other qualities that are stereotypically 'masculine', and to avoid any action or attitude that might be perceived as weak, soft, compassionate, or otherwise stereotypically 'feminine'.

Prophylactic measures like wearing masks, social distancing, the use of hand sanitizer, etc., are explicitly intended to be circumspect. They project fear, risk-aversion, obedience to social constructs, and an acknowledgement of vulnerability. All of these run contrary to the public image that Trump is trying to project, so to the extent possible he refuses to do them and refuses to allow them in his presence. Trump even goes so far as to berate political opponents like Biden and Pelosi for wearing masks, as though taking preventative measures were a sign of weakness that renders someone unfit for office.

For the nationalist mindset there is no distinction between physical weakness and character weakness; only those who are inferior are subject to the ravages of disease. I imagine Trump felt confident that he could expose himself and his immediate circle because — as people of character — they would be unlikely to experience any physical infirmity. And so in his worldview an open, public, mask-less event would demonstrate his fearlessness at little risk to himself and those closest to him.

  • It's not even, or IMHO mostly, a strong man image, as it's certainly possible to project an image of strength while wearing a mask. (E.g. any number of superheros :-)) It's rather that Trump's entire history shows that he doesn't believe that rules apply to him.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 16:10
  • @jamesqf: Superheroes wear masks because they are afraid of backlash from supervillains if their identity becomes public (Superman doesn't want to put Lois Lane in danger). Plus this is a prophylactic; Trump hasn't donned (pun intended) a Lucha Libre mask to protect Melania. You're correct that Trump doesn't believe that rules apply to him, but someone who was a mere rugged individualist would still have the common sense to protect himself from a virulent disease. The psychology here runs deeper than that. Commented Oct 6, 2020 at 16:25
  • Sure, and sensible people wear masks to avoid spreading coronavirus. My point is that wearing a mask doesn't make one weak.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 4:21
  • @jamesqf: I didn't say it made one weak; I said it gave the appearance of weakness. When we talk about nationalism we aren't working on an intellectual/rational level. Nationalism works on the level of archetypes of authority and dominance. Just like a religious cult, a nationalist leader must appear as a dynamic, irresistible force: someone who transcends the weaknesses of human flesh. That pretense of invulnerability draws followers in; any chink in that armor causes them to question their faith. Any impression of worring about illness is fatal to the thing that binds Trumpism together. Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 5:05
  • @jamesqf: You watch... Trump is going to spend a whole lot of time over the next couple of weeks trying to (a) turn his illness into a demonstration of his powerful vitality ("Look how easily I beat Covid!") and/or (b) trying to make his illness disappear from people's minds. He has to reassert his appearance as 'invulnerable', because his most ardent supports will turn away in frustration and disgust if Trump exposes qualities that are merely human. Commented Oct 7, 2020 at 5:09

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