There’s been a recurring theme among a lot of conservative social media voices this year that seems to drive liberals and their media allies into a foam-at-the-mouth frenzy. It’s the suggestion that many Democrats and progressives are actually rooting for the pandemic shutdowns and the resultant economic retraction to last as long as possible, preferably until November. Why? Because a bad economy tends to make people sour on the party in power and if the public can be convinced that this was somehow all Donald Trump’s fault, or at least that he didn’t do enough to solve the problem, they will be more inclined to vote him out of office. And just for the record, that’s really not a far-fetched theory at all.
But it’s also not something they tend to come right out and say, either. That’s why I was somewhat startled when I was flipping through my newsfeed this morning and saw the title of this op-ed in the USA Today from Democratic activist and president of the Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, Bradley Beychok. The piece boasted the headline, “Trump’s last line of defense is the economy. Biden and Democrats must knock it down.”
To borrow a meme-worthy tag line from George Takei… Oh, my! So in order to defeat Donald Trump in November, Democrats (and Uncle Joe) must “knock down the economy?” Somehow I’m not sure if that messaging pitch was put through any focus groups. But that can’t really be what he’s saying, right? Let’s take a look and see.
The polling is clear: President Donald Trump is on the ropes and Americans are crying out for new leadership as they watch the dire consequences of his chaotic, crass and corrupt presidency unfold against the backdrop of a pandemic and deepening recession. But we are far from the finish line, and while Trump’s support may be dwindling, he still has a leg to stand on.
Among the swing voters who will help decide this election, President Trump still maintains a significant advantage over presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden on the question of who is best suited to lead America out of this economic crisis. If we want to ensure that Trump does not win a second term, we need to cut off the last leg of his reelection bid.
It’s the economy, Democrats.
So what is the author really saying here? Beychok correctly notes that in most parts of the nation, and particularly in the swing states critical to Trump’s hopes for a second term, the President is trusted far more than Joe Biden as the person best suited to lead yet another economic recovery after yet another disaster. (The current disaster is the novel coronavirus. The previous one was the administration of Barack Obama and, er… Joe Biden.)
After that, the level of honesty on display is almost refreshing, particularly when you consider the subject and Beychok’s organization’s goals. He makes no bones about the fact that the current economic distress was caused not by any Trump policies (which produced a roaring economy and record employment rates until COVID-19 blew into town) but by the disease itself. No, what the author seeks to hammer home is the need to create the perception that Trump has failed to lead us out of the pandemic and restore the economy. Here’s another of the key sections of the piece. (Emphasis added)
It is our job, as Democrats, to show these voters that his disastrous handling of the virus led to the deep national recession and economic devastation in their local communities — and that he is unable to provide the leadership to bring our economy back. If his economic standing dips into the negatives, he will be underwater with swing voters on all counts.
There you have it. Mr. Beychok has not one iota of care for the people suffering from the economic impact of the pandemic. He doesn’t care whether a vaccine is found quickly or if any drugs are developed to save lives. It all comes down to whether or not the voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania can be convinced that they’re out of work because Donald Trump failed to come up with a cure for COVID-19 fast enough to restart the economy.
Much of this is of a piece with plenty of recurring narratives we’ve seen on cable news and in the nation’s larger narratives. If any states are opening back up “too soon” and new virus cases spike, it’s the fault of Trump and conservatives who are “rushing” to bring the economy back online. But the fact is that everyone arguing to keep the economy offline to prevent further infections are the ones ensuring that the economy won’t rebound as quickly and people will still be out of work.
This is a wormhole of an argument. You can never be in the right on this because every answer is wrong. The fact is that the economy was booming and it tanked when we were hit by a pandemic. There is no policy that Donald Trump could have put in place to return us to the full employment we previously enjoyed without risking some increased viral infection numbers. The Democrats are painting a lose-lose picture for the President on this issue. It remains to be seen if swing state voters will fall for the line of horse hockey being pushed by people like Mr. Beychok, even when they are “honest” enough to come and show you their cards.