The coronavirus pandemic is first and foremost a global public health crisis. But here in the United States — as is likely true in other countries — the response to it is heavily overlaid with political calculations. It is both obvious and inevitable. The crisis is unfolding in the lead-up to the election.
Viewed strictly in a political light, the consequences and rewards of responses to this virus — good responses as well as bad ones — suggest a new political dynamic that has few predecessors.
There was an election in the midst of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, but that was a midterm election year, not a presidential one.
I would submit that in general, a national crisis benefits the incumbent, if the nation is perceived to be at war against an outside actor. In such cases, there is a predictable nationalistic rallying. Fear becomes an adhesive; heroism becomes an antidepressant. And the president’s bully pulpit is amplified, as networks carry his news conferences and announcements live and the American public tunes in.
People need reassurance, stability and leadership, and changing the person in command in the middle of the process might not appeal to many.
As such, Donald Trump has tried in every way to make fighting the pandemic feel like fighting a war. As he tried to frame it: “We’re at war, in a true sense we’re at war, and we are fighting an invisible enemy.” But an invisible enemy doesn’t work as well as a visible one, so Trump now regularly refers to the virus as the “Chinese virus.”
The problem for Trump is that this actually isn’t a war. It’s a health crisis. The government may attempt to mobilize in some of the same ways it would if the country were actually at war, but a health crisis carries a different psychological freight than a combat war.
A virus is invisible, as Trump originally phrased it, so there isn’t a person or a people to vilify. An invisible army of submicroscopic infectious agents with no mind and no capacity for malice isn’t an enemy that calls up patriotic defensive cohesion.
Calling the virus “the Chinese virus” is the closest Trump can get to a target, to racist, cultural scapegoating. Regardless of where the first case of this virus was identified, the United States now has more confirmed cases than any country in the world.
Furthermore, the theater of battle is out of sight, due to patient privacy concerns and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations. This war is being waged in hospitals, and the closest most of us will truly get to understanding the gravity and human cost of the situation is from personal testimonials from health care providers.
Here again, the battle differs. In a traditional war, or even a terrorist attack, the front line combatants are public servants, extensions of the government: soldiers, police officers, firefighters.
In the case of a health care emergency, many of those on the front lines are private citizens in a for-profit industry. They may rise, and they have in this case, to true honor, nobility and service, but it is hard for a politician to take credit for their effort and sacrifice.
That is a thing that leaders like to do: Find a moment when they can declare a victory, even if the war still rages — George W. Bush on an aircraft carrier standing in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner, or Barack Obama announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden. There is not likely to be such a dramatic moment with this virus unless a vaccine or treatment is quickly developed.
Still, Trump forecasts a victory moment, saying earlier this month, “Americans from every walk of life are coming together and thanks to the spirit of our people, we will win this war and we are, we’re winning and we’re going to win this war.”
Furthermore, it is nearly impossible to grasp the scope of the lethality of the crisis. We see numbers climb, but we rarely see the human representation of those numbers.
There is no battlefield to visit. There is no pile of rubble to climb. There is no communal gathering place. Even if there was a place to gather, gatherings are strictly discouraged during this crisis. There is no collective action, and therefore collective conscience, because we are isolated from one another.
The most we see is online concerts and convening, and people clapping or singing from balconies. There are no candlelight vigils. There are no massive quilts.
Trump needs America to view the fight against the virus as a war against an army unleashed by a foreign power — one over which we will emerge victorious. Only in that light can he emerge as a valiant leader.
Seen the other way, the way it truly is — as a national health emergency during which he has failed by downplaying its significance and lying about his response — it would be a disaster.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: email@example.com.
Trump’s dangerous militarization of U.S. politics – The Washington Post
The events of this week have startled even those who have been alarmed for some time about the trajectory of American politics. On Monday, Trump used security forces to disperse demonstrators before a photo op by a church. In the days since, he has kept up his steady drumbeat of divisive rhetoric, vowing to unleash the armed forces on U.S. cities. Such calls, echoed by Trump loyalists, belie the scenes of peaceful protesters gathered daily outside the White House.
We may be now inside Trump’s “Götterdämmerung,” as Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution declared — the “vicious downward spiral” as his presidential term draws to a combustive end. National polls show Trump slumping behind Democratic challenger and former vice president Joe Biden. On the streets of Washington, out-of-town federal forces confront protesters, including armed officers with little to no identification of the agency to which they belong.
Trump’s inner circle is doing little to curb his aggressive instincts as protests over the death of George Floyd continue across the country. Attorney General William P. Barr warns of a “witch’s brew” of extremists, no matter that the majority of marches and demonstrations have not been violent. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper speaks of U.S. cities as “battlespaces.” A White House spokesman told reporters that “all options are on the table” regarding military deployments to quell protests, language the administration more often uses when seeking to deter geopolitical adversaries overseas.
Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was “Chaos”, which I didn’t like, & changed to “Mad Dog”…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2020
So far, the most significant rebuke to the president came from his former defense secretary. “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us” Jim Mattis wrote in a widely circulated statement Wednesday. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”
“Every appearance in uniform, every word out of the mouth of a senior military leader, at this point has consequences,” wrote Eliot Cohen, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “While these men and women are not the only or even the prime safeguards of American freedoms, they constitute an important line of protection. And if they are willing to take a bullet for the country, they need to be entirely prepared to take obscenity-laced tirades and a pink slip for it.”
Critics warn of the damage already done by Trump’s threats to use military might at home. “Creating a sense that the military is a partisan political actor really does violence to the nature of the civil-military compact of the United States,” said Kori Schake, a former Pentagon official at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, to the New York Times.
“To divide and conquer at home, using the United States military, is an incredible escalation of the government’s coercive power,” said Alice Friend, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to Reuters.
General @Martin_Dempsey, retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is criticizing the president’s threat to send federal troops into the states. “The idea that the military would be called into suppress what for the most part were peaceful protests” is “very dangerous.”
— Steve Inskeep (@NPRinskeep) June 4, 2020
The world’s sole superpower is starting to look like more fragile countries elsewhere. Trump and his loyalists are only the second camp in the Western Hemisphere this past month to entertain notions of domestic military crackdowns: Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have urged a full-fledged takeover of the administrative state as the president faces a storm of controversies amid the coronavirus pandemic. And while top brass in both countries now feel compelled to publicly pledge fealty to their constitution and democracy, experts fear a growing far-right radicalization further down the ranks, especially among the local police.
“The Trump administration and its allies in Congress should dispense with incendiary, panicky rhetoric that suggests the U.S. is in armed conflict with its own people, or that some political faction is the enemy, lest security forces feel encouraged or emboldened to target them as combatants,” noted the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based organization that focuses on conflict prevention and rarely comments on domestic American affairs.
On one hand, the erosion on view challenges the country’s deep embrace of its armed forces as a wholly benign actor. The irony of prominent Republicans calling for the military to flush out demonstrators on the 31st anniversary of that kind of intervention in Beijing was not lost on many commentators.
“Tiananmen in the American imagination is something fantastic and distant, deliberately placed far away and long ago,” wrote Rui Zhong in Foreign Policy. “It is a black mark against the Chinese state alone, rather than a possibility in America itself. Only under a dictatorship could such things happen, we say, forgetting Ocoee, Opelousas, Tulsa, or Kent State.”
On the other hand, it also serves as a reminder to observers abroad of the limits of American commitments to democracy and the rule of law. “It will certainly be very easy for leaders in Africa, those with their own dictatorial tendencies, to justify future behavior by referencing the actions of the U.S. administration in the last few weeks,” wrote Nigeria-based analyst Idayat Hassan. “What Africans can learn from recent U.S. events is that democracy must never be taken for granted and that the rights of all citizens must continually be fought for.”
Politics This Morning: Canada slowing COVID-19 infection rate, but threat remains as restrictions ease, says Tam – The Hill Times
Good Friday morning,
Fresh figures from federal public health officials showed that Quebec and Ontario account for more than 90 per cent of the country’s COVID-19 caseload. The latest projections, released yesterday, suggested that Canada could see between 97,990 to 107,454 cases by June 15.
Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said while Canada has made progress in curbing the infection rate and controlling the spread of the epidemic, the threat hasn’t fully abated, as there is still no vaccine for the virus.
Former Liberal cabinet minister Jane Philpott has been tapped by Ontario to advise it in its efforts to collect racial and socioeconomic data during the pandemic. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. Philpott said her job will be to bring together “huge amounts of information” that have been siloed. Such data, she said, will be useful in improving the government’s research efforts and response to medical care. Her position is unpaid.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opted not to comment on the release of a video that shows an RCMP officer hitting an Inuit man with his truck in Kinngait. The chief superintendent of the Nunavut RCMP has called for an investigation into the incident. According to the Globe, the victim was arrested for public intoxication, but was not charged. Mr. Trudeau reiterated comments he made earlier this week, acknowledging the existence of systemic racism amid the ongoing protests against police violence, triggered in the wake of George Floyd‘s death.
As anti-racism and police brutality protests show no signs of waning, one activist and some Parliamentarians said that there’s growing recognition that it’s time to go beyond long-overdue “piecemeal reforms.”
Independent Senator Rosemary Moodie observed the protests, which are colliding with a deadly pandemic that’s disproportionately affecting racialized communities, are drawing out more allies. “Every race is out there on the streets, supporting the concerns of what’s happening,” Sen. Moodie said.
Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, who immigrated to Canada as a refugee from Somalia, told Toronto Star that the process for addressing systemic racism in Canada starts with amplifying the “voices of those who feel that sting of discrimination of racism as part of their lived reality,” who can define the scale of the issue. He said there’s also work to be done at the community level, by empowering groups who are front-line responders when incidents occur.
Seniors Minister Deb Schulte said the government delayed the rollout of COVID funding for seniors to prevent fraud, which has been an issue flagged public servants in the processing of cheques through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program. The top-up in financial assistance to vulnerable seniors will arrive the week of July 6. Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough sought to assure MPs the government intends to pore over cases where fraud might have occurred.
In scheduled events, the House Indigenous Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear from First Nations Tax Commission and the Inuit Business Council, among others, at 11 a.m. Happening simultaneously is the Government Operations Committee meeting, where industry officials and Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers and Businesses of Canada are slated to testify. The Industry Committee, meanwhile, is holding a hearing at 2 p.m. Witnesses include the Montreal Port Authority and Spartan Bioscience Inc.
The Hill Times
Politics Podcast: What History Can And Can’t Teach Us About Today’s Protests – FiveThirtyEight
It’s easy to compare today’s anti-police-violence protests to the protests of the 1960s, but those comparisons don’t paint a full picture. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, history professor Yohuru Williams joins Perry Bacon Jr. and Galen Druke to discuss which parallels are apt, how today’s protests are different, and what that says about where the movement is headed.
You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.
The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.
Toronto FC captain says Donald Trump doesn't have 'a moral bone in his body' – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
Highlights of the day: YMTC said to enter SSD brand business – Digitimes
'Truly sorry': Scientists pull panned Lancet study of Trump-touted drug – National Post
- Sports13 hours ago
NBA Board of Governors approves competitive format to restart 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play – NBA CA
- Economy23 hours ago
Higgs calls for 'cultural shift' to turn N.B.'s economic fortunes around – CBC.ca
- Tech20 hours ago
Successful investors are using big data and machine learning—now you can, too – Financial Post
- Media21 hours ago
Police Chief responds to controversy over social media posts – Quinte News
- Tech22 hours ago
Apple tracks looters who steal iPhones – BBC News
- Art22 hours ago
Dan Fumano: Questions, shock as art studio's death blamed on COVID-19 – Brockville Recorder and Times
- Tech21 hours ago
Sonos Arc is available to buy in Canada on June 10th – MobileSyrup
- Economy22 hours ago
Impact of new social unrest on the US economy in two charts – Yahoo Canada Finance