Lately, Trump’s behavior relative to the pandemic has not only not been Presidential, but positively puerile. He’s trying to deny New York the ventilators it needs, he’s dissing CEOs, and—what really irks me—he’s threatening to punish states whose governors don’t toady to him. What kind of leadership is that? And yet we know that his approval rating has risen to about 50%—the highest since he’s been elected.
That “bump” depressed me, making me worry that he’ll be reelected—and shame on our country if, after four years of his insanity, they allow it to continue—but Jon Chait at New York Magazine feels otherwise. The title of his piece says it all, but click the screenshot to read.
Chait thinks the bump is temporary because all leaders get a bounce when there’s a national crisis. Further, Trump’s Bump is much smaller than those enjoyed by other leaders, including Boorish Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, and the Italian government. Chait puts an optimistic spin (for us Democrats) on it:
Against a backdrop where every leader is enjoying soaring, almost rapturous levels of public approval, Trump’s step up to almost 50 percent approval should be seen not as good news, but as a devastating political indictment of his leadership style. It’s like a Major League Baseball player competing against high schoolers and hitting 0.280.
What’s as bad as Trump trying to force governors to kowtow to him is his implicit promise to end social distancing and restart businesses before any rational person thinks the pandemic is waning, as well as scaling back protective measures sooner in states that support him and have “incredible governors” and “incredible senators”:
It may be true that high-density cities have suffered much faster outbreaks. It is not true, as Trump implies, that the lagging pace of the virus in red states is caused by superior Republican governance. Red states are not identifying patients with coronavirus and putting them in quarantine. They are experiencing the same unchecked community spread as blue states, and while the virus has taken hold more slowly, they are catching up rapidly. As Nate Silver points out, “Nine of the 10 states that have seen the most rapid increase in coronavirus from Monday to Thursday are states that voted for Trump in 2016.”
Trump’s plan to relax social distancing in the states with the lowest levels of reported outbreak — without yet having widespread, fast-working tests in place — is a recipe to extend the outbreak and delay the recovery he craves.
He may well be persuaded to abandon his plans to do so. (Dr. Anthony Fauci is certainly working to dissuade him.) But that leaves open the question of just what Trump will gain by repeatedly promising the country that social distancing will end soon, and the recovery will be rapid. Rather than prepare the country for a long, painful road to return to normal, he has ramped up expectations to a level even a highly competent president would have trouble meeting.
And a bit more optimism:
Trump has conspicuously failed even to pantomime what that kind of leadership looks like. Mostly he talks about other things to blame: China, the Obama administration, various Democratic governors, General Motors, and the supposed (and clearly untrue) fact that “nobody saw this coming.” He said on camera, “I don’t take responsibility at all,” a line that will appear in almost every Democratic ad, because it violates Americans’ most fundamental requirements of their leaders.
Maybe I’ll win my $100 bet (that he won’t be reelected) after all. Truly, I was appalled when Trump was elected, but to see people still praising him when, during a very serious crisis, he’s acting like an out-of-control maniac, makes me very pessimistic for the future of this country. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
And here’s a very good ad for Joe Biden about Trump’s pandemic problem (h/t Heather Hastie):
— Florida Chris (@chrislongview) March 26, 2020