Why Trump Did and Will Continue to Play Politics with COVID
"We have a very active flu season, more active than most." It's looking like it's heading to 50,000 or more deaths." This was Trump speaking on Monday, March 23 at what had by now become his ritual Monday briefing of the White House coronavirus task force. Now, Trump's latest pronouncement came fully two weeks after the massive outcry from health officials, governors and mayors, and the general public to take seriously the monumental health threat COVID-19 posed to the public.
Trump, though, still couldn't quite do that just yet for two huge political reasons that ranged far beyond just his gear up for a tough reelection fight looming
He had spent virtually the entire three plus years of his administration selling the public on his boast that he had practically, single-handedly, turned the economy around. That he had put just about everyone back to work. And, that most importantly, under his magical stewardship, there would be even more economic nirvana for everyone in the future.
The polls showed that a big chunk of American voters bought his boast. Though he might get more minuses than pluses in his overall approval ratings, the one consistently bright spot was that he got just as consistent high marks from a majority for his handling of the economy. Trump well knew that a robust economy, with near full employment, was the ace card for presidents seeking reelection. The old political truism was, it's the economy stupid. The history of presidential elections amply showed that almost no sitting president has ever been ousted from office during happy economic times.
There was another reason for Trump's see no COVID evil stance. He had built his political career on elevating the blame game to a high art. His bash of immigrants, Muslims, Blacks, Hispanics and women was near legendary. Trump knew what many demagogues long knew and that is pointing the blame finger at the most vulnerable and reviled groups in society could be a winning political formula. This was often the ticket for many politicians to win an office and stay in an office.
So, COVID was no exception. Trump slapped the tag "the Chinese virus" on it and sent many Americans scurrying to the barricades in terror of Chinese or any person with an Asian appearance. There was the predictable upswing in taunts, stares, and shunning of some Asians. The ploy for a moment was to sell COVID as made in Asia and thus totally foreign to the U.S. For Trump's political purpose, it was simply a problem someone else made, not one of his's.
Now what happens when the crisis blows up and the duck, dodge, blame, and finger pointing won't work? When there is a loud public, media and medical community demand to do something quick? Worse, still, were the stock market plunges and Wall Street investment houses sweat with worry?
Suddenly there's the nightmare that people are questioning the effectiveness of the nation's top leader. There's the colossal danger that the one ace card Trump had, namely his providing an economic and financial nirvana in America, was rudely yanked off the table. That screams for a sharp volte face. Trump now had to sound and appear to act like the second coming of Lincoln and FDR. What ensued was a blitz of press conferences, briefings, tough directives, demands and commands to health officials, and manufacturers of medical equipment, and travel bans. He even threatened to quarantine entire states.
This was all topped with the demand that Congress immediately shove billions out to any and every American to offset he economic damage. The only thing left was to hope that the war time president posture would work and make more believers than disbelievers in the power of a President, Trump that is, to effectively rally the country to defeat the COVID enemy. In the end, though, it was still all politics to him. From COVID Politics--Trump's Deadly Game (Amazon)