Monday, August 10, 2020

What or Who Decides This Election?

Leah Millis/Reuters
COVID progress, riot fatigue, Durham indictments, Biden’s brain . . . By November, several factors may be trending in Trump’s favor — if he lets them.
We know where to watch in the next few weeks but have no real idea what we will be watching. Yet pundits, the media, and the Left seem giddy that their polls show a Trump slump, as if they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing from 2016. But in truth, the news cycle over the next three months may well favor Trump — a scenario his opponents no doubt deem preposterous in these dog days of August.
1. The virus. The coronavirus is like an out-of-control grass fire. It dies down only to flare up without much predictability — making fools of yesterday’s experts, proving them yet again today’s geniuses, only to render them idiots tomorrow.
Trump’s polls climbed in May when it looked as if the vicious virus was waning. But after the public relaxed its guard, or protesters gathered for much of June in massive demonstrations that were politically correct mockeries of social distancing, masks, and disinfects, or the virus got its natural second wind, it caught fire again — and abroad as well.
If by October remedies have improved, vaccinations are in final trials, care has been honed to reduce the death rate, then the president will be rewarded for getting the nation through the disaster. If it spikes yet again or mutates into a more lethal strain, or if the lethality rate soars in October, then he will be blamed at the polls. In some sense, the virus’s course is beyond human control; the key, however, is how the president reacts to its metamorphoses. If well, Biden’s ankle-biting will seem shrill; if not so well, Biden’s generalities and his reverse copycatting the president’s directives and coronavirus policies will seem sober and judicious.
2. The lockdown/ quarantine. Depending on how poll questions are framed, most Americans either want to take their chances and get back to work, or they care little about the data and simply are terrified of COVID-19.
If the schools stay shut down, millions of children will suffer untold harm, and millions of parents will be unable to return fully to work. The medical and financial fallout will have grave collective economic implications. If schools do open, and the virus is manageable, then the administration will be seen as prescient. If the contagion somehow spikes during the return to schools, or is presented as spiking by the media, Trump will be dubbed a reckless Typhoid Mary. Biden’s viral policies are simply to oppose whatever Trump does. So Biden’s risks are that when the virus wanes, he will have already ceded Trump responsibility — and thus credit — for its diminution.
3. The economy. It is hard to see how the economy ascends and returns on track to its pretrial boom before Election Day, at least until herd immunity increases or the virus either wanes naturally, becomes a treatable disease, or is eliminated by a vaccine — or all of the above. The election may hinge on whether any of those variables appears viable by November. If they are, people will spend and produce in confidence that the end is in sight; if the virus is still considered lethal and terrifying, then the economy will stay flat — at a time of a $4-trillion-plus annual deficit. Again, the Biden basement strategy of having Trump own the virus, lockdown, and economy may now seem wise, given the chaos of the summer and Biden’s own cognitive issues. But 90 days is a long time, and all three trends could reverse course and improve, which according to the logic of Biden himself, would then be Trump’s doing.
Read the rest from Victor Davis Hanson HERE.

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