Donald Trump has a bad habit of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. In fact, he may well be the Democrats best chance of taking back the White House in November.
Trump got a good bump in the polls when the Senate “acquitted” him of the impeachment charges, then gave it all back with his bumblin’, fumblin’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Now Trump and his acolytes may be setting him up for defeat in November.
In the kind of political master stroke you don’t expect from him, Trump conceded his didn’t have the power to restart the economy—that’s the responsibility of the 50 governors. If they screw it up, Trump escapes blame. If things go well and the economy is on the upswing in October, he will probably get reelected.
But, of course, he couldn’t leave things well enough alone. Almost immediately after releasing his three-phase plan for returning to normal, Trump proceeded to undermine the effort by calling for the “liberation” of supporters chaffing under the lock-down restrictions.
Those seeking liberation—MAGA hat-wearing, Bible totting, gun-carrying anti-vaxxers—have staged demonstrations in several states demanding a return to normal. Georgia’s Republican governor is starting to reopen the state, even though the health statistics say it’s too early.
They are encouraged by people like Attorney General William Barr, who said the shutdowns are “disturbingly close” to house arrest, and that the Justice Department will sue states if they “go too far.” Then there’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas, who said “some things are more important than living,” like making money.
The problem is that we may be trying to return to normal too soon. Small studies by researchers at Stanford and the University of Southern California have concluded the coronavirus has infected more people than previously believed, but is nowhere close to the level we need to create herd immunity.
Most experts expect a second surge of the virus later this year, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that surge will be more fatal if it arrives during flu season. A vaccine is 12 to 24 months in the future, if we’re lucky.
A majority of respondents to recent polls on the subject are fearful shutdown restricts will be lifted too soon. If a second surge of the virus arrives in September or October and forces another shutdown of the economy, voters will remember that Republican governors egged on by Trump were hell-bent on reopening the economy when they vote the first Tuesday in November.