We are becoming accustomed to describing the current medico-economic crisis as comparable to the Great Depression, which indeed it is, but without reminding ourselves that the Great Depression lasted twelve years, from September 1929 to December 1941. While sheltering in place and coping with personal difficulties, I have been trying to think through the larger meaning of it all, without, of course, any medical expertise whatsoever. There are at least three separate large questions: First, what does it mean for the election?; Second, what does it mean for the economy?; and Third, what does it mean for American politics over the next generation or two?
The first question is the easiest to answer, so I will tackle that today, leaving the second and third for tomorrow.
I think it is quite clear that Trump is toast in the upcoming election, and that he is liable to take the Republican Party down with him. There is a myth abroad on the left that Trump is the Teflon Donald, but nothing could be further from the truth. He won the presidency by a fluke against a world-historically awful candidate, and ever since that time the Republicans have been losing mid-term elections, off-year elections, by-elections. Whenever Trump steps into a local election and tries to make it about him, the hapless Republican candidate loses. Before the virus hit, but after Biden was elevated by the Democratic Establishment to Presumptive Nominee status, every poll reinforced the impression that Trump would lose. Trump’s ace in the hole, or so he thought, was the economy. And now, in a matter of two months, he has swapped the longest expansion, the lowest unemployment, and the strongest stock market in living memory for another Great Depression, with the ranks of the unemployed swelling to unimaginable levels and businesses small and large going belly up.
On top of which, the pandemic has seemingly been crafted by a heartless, amoral Democratic strategist. COVID-19 started in the deepest of Deep Blue states, making it a Fundamentalist Protestant wet dream – God punishing the heathens. For what seemed like an eternity, we lived with Trump’s grotesque Corona Task Force performances, until finally he jumped the shark with bleach infections and decided that his only reelection chance was a reopened economy. Now, at Trump’s urging, the Red States are reopening. Inevitably, this means a dramatic rise in cases and deaths just in time for the election. By October, which is now only five months away, Trump will be lucky if he is not lynched by an angry mob of rural non-college educated White men, their MAGA hats converted into masks.
So politically, this godawful disaster is, as it has become popular in certain circles to say, a win-win. Where does that leave the economy?