Before the pandemic, the American economy was booming. In fact, the US economy had long since soared passed the highs from before the recession hit in 2008. In January of this year, it looked like Donald Trump, despite unpopularity among liberals and academia, had a solid claim that his policies had made the economy stronger.
COVID-19, however, has turned this perception on its head. The US has not shown it has the capacity to test for the disease at the rate needed to accurately trace outbreaks. Early missteps, largely blamed on the Trump administration, allowed the disease to spread unchecked from its arrival in the country until mid-March.
By the middle of March, grim forecasts from medical experts forced the US to enact blunt measures. Thus, the strict and stifling lockdown we now grimly accept as the “new normal” was born. Now, the US economy has been cratered. Unemployment is at its highest recorded point. The economy lost over 20 million jobs in April. This is an unprecedented beating for the largest economy in the world.
How Could This Impact the Election?
Needless to say, this is an unprecedented situation. The modern-day version of America we once knew is a thing of the past. Even after a vaccine is created and the country moves beyond the pandemic, something fundamental has been revealed. We weren’t ready for a pandemic like this. We failed to prepare for this contingency, to stockpile resources, to test adequately.
This could spell disaster for Trump as the November election looms. Reports from within the White House hold that Trump’s aides are trying to pivot to the economy. Weeks of COVID-19 updates showed that the President was prone to gaffs involving the medical side of things.
His statement regarding “injecting disinfectants” led to a major embarrassment in the press. Trump has since switched topics, focusing on reopening the economy.
Economic Focus Could Backfire
Trump is taking a calculated risk by focusing on the economy. If he does nothing, the economic consequences will certainly be dire. However, by encouraging states to reopen too soon, the President could risk a second wave of infections. Should the disease claim even more lives in a second spike, Trump could be blamed.
Needless to say, this pandemic has already had a major impact on the public perception of the president. Many polls, even those cited by White House strategists, now show Trump losing key battleground states to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Barring a miraculous recovery of the economy, and an even more miraculous disappearance of the virus, Trump could be in for a tough election year.