“Wuhan virus” certainly isn’t racist. “Kung flu” is glib more so than racist, unbecoming for a crisis of this magnitude. “Chinese virus” is aimed by most who use it at the Chinese government, to hold them accountable for their many sins in enabling the virus’s global spread. When Chinese officials are out there pushing conspiracy theories that COVID-19 originated with American soldiers, I’m not crying any tears over the use of “Chinese virus” to describe this plague.
But are some people using it for malevolent reasons, to scapegoat people of Chinese descent? No doubt.
If “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” doesn’t cut it for you, may I politely suggest “Wuhan virus”?
That adds up to a 42/47 split among all adults, with Dems breaking 67/23 and Republicans dividing 14/80. Which isn’t the only dubious opinion Democrats have about the disease: When asked if China is responsible for the global pandemic, just 54 percent of Dems say that it’s “probably true” versus 90 percent of Republicans. Left-wing fear of racism is blinding a significant minority of them to the truth here.
Anyway, practically no one is actually using these alternative names for the disease. Even among GOPers, just 37 percent say they’ve used one versus 60 percent who haven’t. Most of us are sticking with good ol’ “coronavirus.” After all, we’re bros with China again:
Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China. Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet. China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020
How about “Much-respect virus” as a name for the ChiCom-enabled bug that’s going to kill thousands of our countrymen?
There’s other interesting, and more politically pertinent, polling data about the epidemic today:
That poll was taken on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, after Trump began touting Easter as a possible date for reopening business in parts of the country where outbreaks aren’t raging (yet). Even Republicans are iffy on the idea, an unusual show of resistance to a Trump initiative by his own base. How come? Partly it’s understandable fear, I’m sure, as people absorb the news from New York. But partly it’s because there are competing authorities in this case. Epidemiology is specialized enough and the stakes are high enough that even some MAGA fans are going to listen carefully to counterarguments from respected figures about opening up too soon:
On the other hand, Trump hasn’t pushed hard on the idea of reopening on Easter. He’s mentioned it repeatedly but never as a deadline. If he rides this lockdown out for a few more weeks and then sets a hard deadline of, say, May 1, what happens to the partisan split then?
Here’s a surprising bit from the same poll that cuts against the bounce the president has received lately in other surveys:
Asked whether they approve or disapprove of the way Trump has handled the coronavirus overall, 49 percent said they disapproved and 43 percent said they approved. Sixty percent said the Trump administration was not adequately prepared to deal with the pandemic, versus only 25 percent who said the opposite — a net 14-point shift against the president since the last Yahoo News/YouGov poll two weeks ago.
His job approval today in the RCP average is 47.3 percent, the best number of his entire presidency and it’s not close. The second-best number he posted was 46.0 percent, two weeks after Inauguration Day in 2017. His disapproval rating is also under 50 percent for the first time in three years. The “glass half full” view of that is obvious: He’s broken through his ceiling. He’s never been more popular. If, for whatever reason and against all odds, this crisis ends sooner and with fewer casualties than the scientists expect, public jubilation may propel him even higher. If an economic recovery is under way by summer, voters may be so happy and relieved that he ends up being more of a favorite for reelection than he was when the Dow was at 29,000.
The “glass half empty” view is that a 47/49 approval rating is *really bad* at a moment of national crisis, when there’s a “rally around the president” effect pushing his polling upward. Political nerds and historians have been pointing out lately that prior presidents have seen much bigger effects on their numbers after major emergencies. Jimmy Carter bounced up to 58 percent approval at the start of the Iran hostage crisis. George W. Bush hit 90 percent in the days following 9/11. Governors right now are polling considerably better than Trump in terms of their response to coronavirus.
Now, it may be that our hyperpartisan era is simply incapable of producing major bounces for presidents anymore. Obama got a modest bounce that faded quickly after Bin Laden was killed. Trump may be a prisoner of the same hyperpartisan dynamic. Any president of this era would struggle to gain altitude polling-wise in a crisis.
But there’s a lesson in the Carter and Bush examples. Carter was a one-term president; Bush left office with the lowest approval rating in modern history. The “rally around the president” effect fades and eventually the president is judged on how he’s actually handled the crisis. The polling data above showing a 43/49 split on how Trump has managed coronavirus thus far is an early warning that he and his administration need to get their act together. Another poll this week from ABC/WaPo found 58 percent thought Trump was too slow to react versus 38 percent who said he reacted as quickly as he should have. The MAGA base is with him no matter what but he needs more than the base to beat a candidate like Biden. The proverbial question when a president is up for reelection is “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” In an extraordinary situation like we’re in right now, the question in November is likely to be “Are you better off than you were six months ago?” Is the crisis under control? Have we made meaningful progress? Does it seem like Trump is taking smart action or just flailing? If the answers are yes, Biden may be sunk no matter what. If the answers are no, Trump may be sunk no matter what.
Here’s a brutal new ad from Team Biden previewing their message this fall. Exit quotation from Sean Spicer, antsy about Trump’s eagerness to reopen for business: “[I]f he opens up Nebraska because there aren’t that many cases there, and more cases suddenly start popping up, he’s going to pay a price.”
Biden out with another excellent ad. pic.twitter.com/o89tWKk53f
— Adam Smith (@AdamJSmithGA) March 26, 2020