The polls have Joe Biden up by 8-10% over President Donald Trump if America’s presidential election were held today, but, of course, the election will not be held for another five months. Biden has not yet selected his vice presidential candidate, the Democrats have not yet even formally nominated him, and five months might as well be four years in terms of the manner in which Covid-19 and unforeseen events have taken the reins on daily, weekly, or monthly outcomes.
The jury is out, and will remain out for some time to come, on whether sheltering in place or opening up economies all over the world is, or was, the right thing to do in retrospect. In Sweden, the best known national example of keeping an economy open from the start of the pandemic, the current death rate is about 10 times that of neighbouring Norway, lending credence to the notion that opening up is not a good idea for containing the virus. But it may still turn out to have been the best approach for achieving herd immunity and ultimately, for conquering the virus.
That said, sheltering place failed to contain the virus in America, where the virus has spread from the most populous states and cities to the most rural states and communities. So, at Trump’s direction, America will now try the herd immunity approach—even though that is not what it is being called. In five months’ time, the country will know whether that was a good or bad idea. If it turned out to have been the right call, more Americans will be inclined to praise Trump for opening up the economy and attempting to get it back to a semblance of normalcy. If it turned out to be the wrong call, the reverse will undoubtedly be true. It is simply too soon to say.
Regarding the race riots that have ravaged cities across the country, most Americans will praise a law and order response. Whether it is governors calling out the National Guard or Trump deploying the military, if necessary, America will reach a turning point. Most citizens have already said enough is enough. If the military were to ultimately be deployed, while most Americans abhor the idea of using the military against the country’s own people, if it achieves the desired result, most will probably end up saying it was the right thing to do.
On the economy, it is clear from the current trajectory of the US stock market, and its performance over the past couple of months, that many investors and businesses want the economy to open up and foresee a return to some aspect of normality in the not too distant future. Trump has been calling for this, almost from the start of the pandemic. If it turns out that the economy responds favourably to opening up, and a second wave is not catastrophic, he will clearly get credit. And, based on where the stock market is now, with the exception of a few sectors, most people would probably agree that things could have been a lot worse. Even travel and leisure appear to be roaring back.
Then there is the fact that Biden is, ultimately, a weak candidate. His 40+ years’ history in Congress is both a blessing and a curse. The Republicans have all of his voting records to pick at for the remainder of the campaign. Sure, he’s stood for civil rights and the common man and woman, but what is he really known for otherwise? Being a good guy? Being a moderate? And what has he really stood for otherwise in this campaign?
Those candidates that had robust platforms for universal basic income, taxing the rich, or gun control for example, were all, in the end, cast aside by the voters. The Democratic Party has wisely voted for a centrist candidate, but Biden is entirely uninspiring on a variety of levels. He is neither physically nor mentally strong, his campaign has about as much pizzazz as a turnip, and he is failing to rally his base. If he doesn’t get out of his house soon, he may well be largely forgotten.
And that is where Trump has a real advantage. It gives me no pleasure—at all—to say this, because I despise him, his tactics, and much of what he stands for, but he may well be positioning himself to win in November despite what the polls say right now. As he has said countless times before, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his core base of voters will still vote for him. That is even more so now. Even if he were to be stuck in the low 40s in the polls in November, that doesn’t necessarily matter, because the Republicans are masterful at playing the system and could well still end up with more electoral delegates in November.
Since, if there is a vaccine (and personally, I don’t believe there will be because the world does not have a safe, effective, widely proven vaccine against any coronavirus), it certainly won’t be produced, tested, and distributed globally (which would be necessary) this year or even next. Since the riots will eventually end, and since it is likelier than not that opening up the economy will have been the right thing to so (since herd immunity is the only real answer for the foreseeable future), then Trump may get the credit. And since most voters vote their wallets, the economy is likely to be stronger by October than it is today, especially with another multi-trillion dollar aid package in the works.
So this will ultimately boil down to how many Democrats and Republicans turn up at the polls—and which party plays the better Electoral College game. While it is much too soon to say what will happen on either score, unless Biden and the Democrats dramatically alter their play book—and very soon—the election may already be over. Since the Republicans are already presiding over “socialism” in America, based on the multi-trillion dollar printing press Congress is running, the Democrats are being stripped of the ability to say that only they are capable of taking care of the average citizen in a time of crisis. That may well be the factor that decides it all.