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Trump vs. the Virus: If He Wins, Biden’s a Goner

The Dems say the president is failing us, but they're nominating a guy who has nothing else to offer.

Donald Trump during recent a Coronavirus press conference at the White House (Getty Images) and Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Rest in peace, Bernie campaign. We’re left with Joe Biden, and that means the real race is now between Trump and the virus.

What will be missed in the post-Bernie analysis is the key flaw since Inauguration Day 2017, the Democratic Party and their media lickspittles telling Americans they need a savior, a hero, a daddy, a rescuer and then serving up… Joe Biden. That strategy eliminated Bernie because whatever Bernie was, he was not a hero. He said it himself many times—“this is about a movement, it was never about one man.”

The rest of them, the Betos and Petes and Kamalas, were props, K-Pop media creations to satisfy a desire for diversity created mostly by the media itself.

Twitter isn’t real life, and an important rule of the con is to never believe your own bullsh*t. The Dems will ignore this and hope like hell some VP choice will negate all of Biden being Biden without realizing they never should have picked Biden.

If Bernie ever had a chance in 2020 (and that is very unclear) to move his ideas out of social media and into the mainstream, the coronavirus and the panic around it ended that chance for good. New ideas are scary enough in good times. Nobody wants to reform capitalism or talk about reparations in the middle of the war for survival the MSM told us we were in. AOC who? 

And now Joe Biden stands alone. Usually being the last man standing at the end of a fight means you won. But Biden is a black hole for enthusiasm, an empty shirt, a stand-in candidate who through no fault or promise of his own will be the guy in the right or wrong place come autumn. That’s also how he got to be VP. Can you name one signature Biden proposal?

With Trump big footing his way into prime news time with daily press briefings (remember when the MSM chastised Trump for not holding briefings?) Biden is smart to keep quiet now. Whether he has anything worth saying in the fall is a good question, but it all may be too late then.

By choosing Biden, Dems took healthcare reform off the table at a time when it might have had a real audience. If the virus exposed anything, it laid bare our system’s shortcomings. Well, nobody plans to do anything about that. If voters’ big takeaway in November is the healthcare system sucks–you know, the system last tinkered with by Obama-Biden and which Biden sees no need to overhaul–well, so much for Biden.

This is now a one-issue race, and the issue is the Virus. After more than three years of trying the Democrats, except perhaps Bernie, have put few ideas forward. They remain cemented at the buttocks with the MSM to auto-criticize everything Trump does, while the public remains unmoved as they have through the sagas of Russiagate, Ukraine, emoluments, taxes, wars that never happened, ending of democracy that never happened, and so on. Democrats presented no alternatives during the stimulus process, just taking their share of the pork. In a gesture as limpingly sad as it was predictable, Nancy Pelosi did announce an investigation into the coronavirus response. The problem is by November there won’t be much to investigate.

Long before anyone votes, the coronavirus is going to be some version of “over.” One can always play, “but just wait!” as we long did with Russiagate, in order to blunt every rational argument with an irrational one, hoping for a turn for the worse, but as this is written New York City is reportedly reaching its viral apex. Estimates of millions of Americans dead seem overblown in the rear view mirror, and scientists are backing off even milder doomsday modeling. Governor Cuomo’s threat that Trump would have blood on his hands if New York did not get 30,000 ventilators (it got about 7,000, many still unused) should embarrass him, as only a few days later he admitted the state had adequate supplies.

As time passes the many mini-crises will demand perspective, first there were not enough tests then tests caught up, not enough masks then masks caught up, then not enough ventilators but ventilators caught up. Hydroxychloroquine, the MSM’s current stalking horse, will either have been shown to help or not and half of us can tell the others ‘I told you so.’ Trump scores a win, or he can say, ‘the media never gave me a chance but we tried while they just whined it won’t work.’

The end result is many people will return to sanity and understand, again, disaster management is a process not an event. Logistics take time. Mistakes get made. A response starts at zero with the disaster at something more than zero. The two curves compete while the media preternaturally assigns blame until mitigation catches hold. Don’t forget the Dems failed with this gambit once before: Trump the lousy crisis manager who will kill everyone after the hurricane in Puerto Rico, and at that time they even had the female mayor of San Juan in the Andrew Cuomo role.

The virus is the Dems’ last swing at Trump. There won’t be time for another round. It will be a tough sell come November for Dems to get people to vote Biden when all they have to offer is a mis-telling of events nine months earlier. Few will remember and even fewer will care because the response will be judged in full, not based on the daily name calling passed off as journalism. Fauci, Cuomo x2, the Hero Docs and Nurses, and whatever still-to-come good guys the media will have created so they don’t have to credit Trump with any success won’t be on the ballot. All the faux controversy, like the impeachment hearings, will be forgotten as something that hardly mattered then and certainly does not weigh heavy months later, after a whole pandemic has passed specter-like through America.

This measuring of events in full will be exacerbated if the trend we are seeing plays out. There are actually two pandemics in America, one tearing into the New York-tri-state area and the other scraping past most of the country. Half of deaths nationally are in the New York City area.

Even that image of the pandemic may be too generous, because at present the Virus is not a pan-New York City phenomena per se. It is instead highly concentrated in the poorest neighborhoods; a Virus patient in the ravaged Bronx is twice as likely to die as one in a “nice” neighborhood. What if the pandemic ends up being mostly a passing inconvenience for most of America, and not even a NYC-centric tragedy, but a poor-centric tragedy? Urban clusters in Michigan, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania are also struggling and may not have reached peak. Other hot pockets will flash, yes, but the draconian quarantine measures won’t last long in places like Ohio and Iowa if things stay steady.

When nobody in the heartland cares about all this in November pundits will blame it on racism, the convenient foil for all bad things (that will also help blame Trump for a mostly localized disaster without smearing Democratic pin-up Andrew Cuomo). But the explanation which will elude strategists is that people vote for themselves.

Looking back to Vietnam, much of Middle America was agnostic toward the war until the draft started sending bodies home to Bloomington, Dayton, and South Bend. Even then many held to their patriotism and sucked up the sacrifice. As long as most people in Iowa think of the virus as someone else’s problem, Trump is secure. If they start to realize they all know someone who died of the virus, things get a little more competitive. So don’t be surprised to see desperate liberal pundits looking suspiciously gleeful at the prospect of a second viral wave for this year’s October Surprise.

All elections are in the end local. Votes are personal things, big picture issues rendered small. People vote their own experiences, and judge what a vote means for their future. For every game changer you think you see happening now, remember it will be judged by what happened after that on the road to Election Day. Imagine a July 4 Trump rally, congratulating the crowd for having beaten back the virus as they shout USA! USA!

The election is between Trump and the virus. If by November the public concludes he did a good enough job, however that ends up being understood, he’ll be reelected. Election day will be about adding up the smiles and cries from the coronavirus, with Joe Biden as a slightly interested bystander.

Peter Van Buren, a 24-year State Department veteran, is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. 

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