It’s hard to look at the polling showing a Biden blowout in November, and not think things will go well. Between Trump et alia’s inability to stumble into halfway decent anti-COVID-19 policy and Trump’s inability to not be a ginormous dick, it seems reasonable to think Biden will win and Democrats will take back the Senate (though who knows with mail-in voting). But what worries me, especially over the long term (Tom Cotton in 2024), is this (boldface mine):
It’s hard to shake the feeling that his complete mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the few things the president couldn’t squirm out of. Donald Trump has never enjoyed the support of a majority of the American people—in fact, his approval rating has rarely soared beyond 43 percent. But this era has also proven that a big chunk of the public does not care about, say, corruption: the president is blatantly monetizing his office, as his businesses continually take money from people who may seek changes in public policy from the government he leads. It never much moved the needle. Did the family separations have any long-term affect on Trump’s standing? The tax cut for corporations and the rich? The attempt to strip people of their healthcare with no replacement? Without the pandemic failure, he would probably still be the favorite to win re-election thanks to our incredibly dumb mechanism for electing presidents. After all, no one even pretends he might win more citizens’ votes.
This is what worries me long term. If Trump weren’t so catastrophically bad at his job, this election wouldn’t be close–Trump would likely win. Some of that is structural: how voters are distributed across states affects the composition of the Senate and the electoral college for the president. But some of it also appears to be just bad politicking by Democrats. Right now, Democrats are sitting back and letting the virus run against Trump. That might be the right strategy–though were Trump to do the things to crush the curve, he could turn things around by mid-October, which would be a hell of an October surprise (likely he won’t, because ideologically today’s Republicans just can’t propose the necessary economic policy). Not sure it’s a great idea to put a virus in the driver’s seat–you lose agency over the outcome–but it could be the savvy play.
But thinking ahead to 2022 and 2024, what’s going to be the next pandemic for Democrats? That is, if Democrats can only win when Republicans are saddled with massive crises, how are they going to win in ‘normal’ times? Because Democrats need to keep Republicans out of power for everyone’s safety. So how do they win when everything hopefully isn’t going to shit?
The current Democratic leadership just doesn’t like to govern and do the things needed to improve people’s lives dramatically and quickly: people have to like this crap. Unfortunately, I’m not sure our geriatric leadership understands this.