How the political need to preserve the economy has had the opposite effect
“The economy, stupid” is a phrase coined by James Carville during the successful 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. It is still true and American politicians ignore it at their peril. Except in times of war, the state of the economy is always the issue most important to the most voters. The global COVID-19 pandemic adds complexity but does not negate the phrase. Polls indicate that more than 50% of potential voters consider it their primary concern.
The Trump administration and campaign are acutely aware of the importance of the economy to the President’s re-election. That concern has had an enormous affect on the administration’s response to the pandemic. Fear of the pandemic’s effects on the economy has led to management by denial, obfuscation, wishful thinking, and self-delusion. The inconvenient truth is that, no matter how devoutly the President and his supporters might wish it, the economy cannot possibly return to any degree of normalcy until the COVID-19 infection rate is brought under control — and each and every attempt to reopen economic activity without effectively managing the pandemic has been, and will sadly be, doomed.
So far, attempts to reopen the economy in states like Florida and Georgia have led to spikes in infection rates and have ultimately delayed an economic recovery. In states with coherent pandemic management, the results of efforts to restore economic activity have been more positive. If the President were the businessman he claims to be, he would have managed a fact-based national program to combat the pandemic and mitigate its effects on Americans. Instead, he has called it a hoax, has stated that “like a miracle” it will just go away, has put his inexperienced and highly political son-in-law in control of the logistics of pandemic testing, equipment, and supplies, and has denigrated critical social distancing and masking — counter to both his and the nation’s best interests — costing thousands of unnecessary American deaths.
Yes, it is the economy, stupid — and the only way to save the economy is to control the pandemic. Trump has proved that he is not the president to do that.