As Bill Clinton famously said while campaigning for the White House for the first time: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
That was in 1992—but what about 2020?
The US economy is in bad shape as it reopens after a 2.5-month shutdown. This is an election year. The pundits are therefore speculating: Which party will win—and lose—at the polls in November?
Will the “coronavirus recession” harm Trump? Will it benefit Biden?
There is a case to be made for a COVID-19 Biden victory. Economic problems usually benefit the opposition in presidential races. Voters want the government to “do something”.
But in this instance, the government already “did something”—and that’s the problem. The term “coronavirus recession” is a misnomer. The virus was not the cause of the current recession. The government-imposed shutdown of the economy was the cause of the recession.
Throughout the United States, governors and state health officials unilaterally shuttered millions of businesses without due process. The current economic disaster is more rightly called “the shutdown recession”.
There is an emerging popular and judicial consensus that government officials exceeded their authority. You’ve seen the protests. Now the courts are coming around, too. In my state of Ohio, the court ruled yesterday that Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton had “no statutory authority to close all businesses…for more than two months.”
Since early April, President Trump has been talking about the need to restart the American economy. Democrats disagree. Democratic governors continue to enforce draconian, unsustainable shutdown measures, as if the total freezing of the economy is the one and only way to fight the pandemic. Particularly notorious among this group are Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, and Gavin Newsom of California.
You have probably seen the cultural divide in your Facebook and Twitter feeds, too. If you have a friend who is describing the opening of a local restaurant or gym as a “payout to billionaires” or a plot to kill everyone, that person is almost certainly a progressive Democrat.
Since the beginning, the shutdown has been difficult to maintain. In order to prolong it beyond this point, Democrats and progressives must stick to a specific and gloomy narrative: That the shutdown is the Only Way, and that any deviation from the Only Way amounts to mass suicide, plain and simple.
There is a reason why Democrats are so enthusiastic about wrecking the economy. The shutdown, after all, provides a pretext to implement the expansion of governmental powers and governmental dependence—items which are always high on the Democratic agenda.
Back to Bill Clinton. Clinton’s message in 1992 was optimistic, and stressed a balance of government action and individual self-reliance. But the Democratic message today is: Crash the economy and let Democratic politicians loot and socialize everything.
Oh, and don’t leave your house. Because that is the Only Way to keep everyone from dying.
How has that message played out so far? Look at the proof on the ground: The notoriously liberal residents of California have been among the most rebellious of shut-ins.
I would suggest that most Americans don’t want to see the complete and prolonged halt of normal life. Most don’t want total economic collapse, either…even if that means another $1,200 stimulus check or two in the short run.
Many Americans will still despise Trump in November, of course. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the dark side of the Democratic Party, and the collective sacrifices that Democrats are willing to impose on everyone else, in order to gain power for themselves.