Considering that Donald Trump yelled “you people” at a black woman yesterday, and brag-tweeted about how his pandemic press conferences are getting higher ratings than The Bachelor, there’s really no reason to think he’s working with any viable or coherent 2020 strategy at all.
That said, if he’s settled on a campaign message, it appears to be “I’m doing great because only hundreds of thousands of Americans will die in this pandemic instead of millions of Americans.” If this is what he’s really going with, I’m so horrified from a human perspective, I want to throw up. But even from a strictly political perspective, I don’t see how he can make this work.
Yes, Presidents can see a lot of death on their watch and, under the right circumstances, come out ahead for it. Abraham Lincoln lost plenty of Americans in the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt lost plenty of Americans in the Depression, and again in World War II. They’re both on monuments. But in both instances, the majority of people believed that A) the deaths were necessary, and B) the President did everything possible to keep them to a minimum.
When the death toll in the United States starts reaching five and six figures, are the majority of Americans really going to look back at how Donald Trump has handled this and conclude that having him as President resulted in fewer deaths than there otherwise would have been? That’s an awfully tough sell.
We’ve all seen the inaction, the incoherency, the psychopathy on display. His base may or may not stick with him, but they’re the minority to begin with. What’s always mattered is how the average American sees this. His approval rating saw a rather small crisis spike, and is already falling. Now that the death toll is rapidly reaching horrifying proportions, most Americans will look back critically at Trump’s handling of this and conclude that he screwed it up in every way possible.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report