Call it a complete turn of tide for President Donald Trump.

Until a couple of weeks ago, US President Donald Trump was riding high on his “Indian honeymoon”, ensuring a new support base from among the 1 million strong Indian-American vote bank; his popularity was soaring, with a perception building in America that he’s been able to contain unemployment; simultaneously supporting his political dossier were the American stocks that were at a record high in that period. Trump was building his campaign on these things. But currently, he cannot look at any of these things. Everything changed in just two weeks, with the coronavirus pandemic showing its scary face, first in Europe and then bringing the “Superpower America” to its knees—scared, panicked and helpless, praying for a miracle cure to stop the growing list of those affected, only next to what the country faced during the Civil War.
With more than 104,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases on Saturday and rising (by the time this article is published), America’s superpower tag is on test. President Trump’s re-election prospects are also hanging fire.
Experts wonder if the over $2 trillion stimulus package is going to arrest the widespread negativity among the public and the growing criticism of the US administration in handling the pandemic. The nation’s industries and small businesses have come to a standstill and the number of Americans filing for initial unemployment claims jumped nearly 12-fold to a record 3.28 million last week. Not to miss that the non-availability of stocks of essential drugs and emergency health measures have not gone well in the elections year.
President Trump, a businessman to the core, must have weighed in all options before opening the purse strings to apply the “money balm” on the many infected and battling.
Good for him that he is not facing the public directly, as the US election campaign has gone into the “virtual mode”. However, having said that, still not many are convinced that the stimulus package will soar President Trump’s prospects immediately. Nor for Democrat candidate Joe Biden either.
“The effect of the stimulus package to determine the right leader and candidate for President will be out in open by Fall when the economics of the stimulus package will be analysed threadbare and sector wise,” says Professor Marvin G. Weinbaum, a political scientist and currently the Director of the Middle East Institute in Washington DC.
However, Weinbaum told The Sunday Guardian that he was currently using the maximum space for himself. “The crisis has given him a daily platform to address the American public. This can be used to demonstrate his ability to act presidential. The problem is that when he goes off-script in his presentations he almost invariably brings controversy with his puffery and errors…However, the public may well forget past errors, including of reacting late to the pandemic if the stimulus is bringing real relief.”
On asked if Trump’s campaign will take a hit when it hits the roads in July, Weinbaum says: “Again, it depends on where things stand in the Fall. If the US bounces back quickly it will boost his chances enormously.”
Mukesh Aghi, President of US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USIPF) is keeping his fingers crossed on if stimulus package will stimulate Trump’s prospects. He told The Sunday Guardian: “There will be an impact on Trump’s re-election depending on the outcome of the healthcare crisis and economic growth in the next 90 days.”
But Aghi is hopeful for America as he says, “The shine has been tarnished. In moments of global crisis, since the First World War, the US has taken the leadership role and made sacrifices for good over evil. For the first time in over a century, the US seems to be trying to survive and is looking helpless. In the mid to long term, the US will gain back that image and perception. But not without dramatic accusations on lack of transparency against China.”
Chicago-based physician Dr Bharat Barai sees hope for Trump unless he commits a “blunder”. He says: “The stimulus package will help the people…Trump’s election chances are a little shaky but not doomed. Americans will judge him ultimately on corona and the economic results of the package.”
It is true that the US did not take it seriously, says, Dr Barai, adding, “Most people thought this is a Chinese problem. In the past SARS 2003 virus, Swine Flu and Ebola did not create major problems. Ultimately, economic and number of lives lost will matter. There will be political blame game once it is back to normal. I do not believe it will affect him adversely unless he commits blunder in the coming days.”
Aghi, however, is pinning the outcome on how people judge the lack of decisive action. He says, the current scenario has two competing interests—health and economy and these are decisive for Trump. “While healthcare experts are saying lock down to flatten the curve, politicians are saying continue with no lockdown, encourage people to come out and be normal. The partial lockdown has today 3.2 million applications for unemployment benefits, the highest surge ever. I believe lack of decisive actions focused on preserving lives, lack of stockpiling essential medical devices will have an impact on Trump’s re-election,” Aghi told The Sunday Guardian.
He also thinks that the $2 trillion stimulus is the highest ever, but less than 10% of the total GDP. “The impact would be minimal due to the overall braking of the economic engine,” says Aghi.
But Weinbaum sees hope for Trump if the corona impasse gets longer than expected. “It could be more damaging for the Democrats,” says Prof Weinbaum adding, “unfortunately, for the Democrats, the stimulus will be seen in the long run as the Administration’s package rather than a bipartisan product.”
There is also a buzz if the US polls will get deferred if the corona pandemic gets out of control and prospective candidates are not able to reach out to the public as desired. But the odds are minimal that the November polls will get deferred. The Covid-19 crisis would be within manageable control by June/July, says Aghi.
As for delaying the elections, the requirement for elections on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November is written into the US Constitution, so it cannot be changed without a constitutional amendment. People will be encouraged to vote by mail, and social distancing and hygiene will probably help at the polls. According to Prof Weinbaum, “It would be difficult constitutionally and as well as politically. But can always imagine a situation so dire that there is no alternative but to defer. Certainly, Trump would push for it.”
For many non-partisan voices, Trump’s leadership will be a key test. America cannot afford to lose more lives. Already becoming the epicentre of Covid-19 after eclipsing China and Europe in infected cases, US citizens will be hoping against hope not to be anywhere near the studies coming out of Johns Hopkins and Harvard. If that happens, the toll would be more than the number that have been killed in all major wars in American history since the American Revolution. As says a journalism professor from a top US University, requesting anonymity: “Trump has been calling himself a wartime President… Now it’s time to measure up to that. If he is able to keep the economy better than the Great Depression, time will tell.”
Not to forget, lives are getting prevalence over politics in today’s America. A clear path to end the pandemic is what may be ringing more bells in both camps than actual politics, particularly among the President Trump-led Republicans. There will be a winner and a loser, for sure in the end. But that will be who wins the war against corona for America and makes it great again!