President Donald Trump has unleashed a humanitarian and economic disaster on his own people. There is no way to escape this fact.
While other places — Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and others — prepared for the coronavirus and took proactive measures to prevent its spread, Trump did nothing. He dismantled the White House task force responsible for pandemic responses, sat on his hands while the death toll escalated in other countries, called the virus a “hoax,” repeatedly claimed it would “miraculously” go away on its own, downplayed the intensity of the virus by comparing it to the seasonal flu and insisted for months that the situation was “totally under control” while his administration failed even to procure basic tests.
As a result, the United States now faces a domestic crisis unseen since the Great Depression. This is the result of political malpractice, not merely biological bad luck.
But Trump does not have a monopoly on political malpractice. As the crisis has spread, Democratic Party leaders ― House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden ― have either been missing in action or short on solutions.
Incredibly, a handful of arch-conservative Republicans have been able to take public credit for advancing the popular, progressive idea of just sending every household a large check for the duration of the crisis. Pelosi explicitly rejected that very idea in early talks among House Democrats, overruling pleas from Democratic economists. With Democratic leaders thinking small, a majority of the public now actually approves of Trump’s catastrophic pandemic management, according to a new poll.
The leader of one party has caused a national calamity, while the leaders of the other have nothing much to say.
We face not only a crisis of leadership, but a crisis of democracy in which members of both parties accept calamitous government as normal and inevitable.
Unfortunately, a significant block of committed partisans in both parties has lost the capacity for self-reflection. Among Republicans, this manifests as the maniacal cult of personality surrounding Trump. In the Democratic Party, it registers as widespread loyalty to a leadership that is increasingly obviously unfit for the emergency at hand. We face not only a crisis of leadership, but a crisis of democracy in which members of both parties accept calamitous government as normal and inevitable.
And so, with the body count rising, lawmakers in Washington have yet to pass a serious response to the crisis. At this point, there can be no avoiding a devastating economic crash ― everything that can be done to slow the spread of the virus will essentially shut down commercial activity ― but lawmakers can help working families and, yes, American businesses weather the storm.
Unfortunately, the most practical plans ― like those from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) for the government to just send every household thousands of dollars a month in straight cash ― aren’t getting much traction. The gears of government are moving too slow, and the debate over what to do seems largely confined to Senate Republicans as Josh Hawley (Mo.), Tom Cotton (Ark.) and Romney harangue their colleagues not to limit federal aid to the poor.
And where is Biden? What, exactly, would Pelosi want to see happen?
What does the Democratic Party even stand for?
Democratic leaders pride themselves on getting things done. They extoll compromise as the highest of all political virtues and boast about reaching across the aisle ― even when the party across the aisle is run by wannabe authoritarians.
An endless parade of centrists vied for the 2020 Democratic nomination not by talking about ideas, but by talking about competence, leadership and other intangibles while warning that candidates that did talk about ideas were too dangerous and scary.
One of those centrists, Biden, has now all but sewn up the nomination — and made himself all but invisible as the worst economic and public health crisis in generations has blossomed. Meeting the other guy halfway is a nice idea, but to do it, you have to start from somewhere yourself. A party that doesn’t really believe in anything will have a hard time putting up serious proposals in a crisis.
The coronavirus pandemic should have sounded the death knell for Trumpism as a political project. Democrats have instead given it new life.
Which would be fine, if Trump could govern. But the man who called this a hoax is unfit for office and cannot be trusted with power in a crisis. It’s a shame Pelosi and Biden can’t be, either.