So Now What?

I’m back. And while I’m grateful to have (for now) avoided being a COVID-19 victim, writing about the next step in the Democratic primary seems pretty darn inane right now. Somehow, just one month ago, the virus was a semi-threatening thing on the horizon, Bernie Sanders was the Democratic front-runner, and most of us left our homes every day without thinking much of it. We had a long decade in March.

But what now? There’s so much we don’t know. When will most Americans (or Italians, or Britons, or Indians, etc., etc. ) be able to move about freely? How many will suffer and die before we get a handle on this damn virus? Will the economy recover soon, or is total financial doom just around the corner. If anyone claims to know the answers to these items, you can start ignoring them. They might have a reasonable suspicion, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

Any political implications need to wait. Yes, what’s happening will clearly effect the results in November. But there are a million scenarios. Some where Trump is routed, some where he wins. The remainder of the Democratic primary is in a state of suspension. Theoretically, Bernie can’t catch Joe. And it wouldn’t seem like the Republic is ready for a political revolution on top of the current upheaval.

You may not have seen this, but there’s a charge of sexual assault from 1993 that Biden will need to deal with at some point. Sure, that would make the score Trump many accusers, Biden one, but it’s still not a positive development for Joe. And he doesn’t have the nomination won just yet. No, I’m not betting on this to shake up the race. It’s still a thing that will resurface eventually. And we know Trump won’t let his own rap sheet get in the way of attacking his opponent on this.

Speaking of the president, he’s already re-framing the debate in a way he does best. From saying only a few people would get the Rona, he’s on to making it a victory if he can prevent 200,000 plus Americans from perishing. From bragging about record Dow results and fifty year unemployment lows, you can bet he’ll call any amount of recovery before November a Trump-induced miracle. His approval numbers are up. At the very top of his established range. And then some.

It could be a “rally around the flag” moment. Bush the Elder and the Younger each saw 90% approval ratings, during Iraq War 1.0 and the immediate 9/11 aftermath respectively. Jimmy Carter actually saw his numbers rocket up after the embassy hostages were taken in Iran. The ongoing crisis wouldn’t become a liability for him until months later.

However, it also shows it’s possible for Trump to get about half of the country to say he’s ok. Given he’s got a built-in Electoral College advantage, any world where he can get almost half of the voting public on board is one where he’s getting sworn back in next January. It’s also, short of Bush the Younger–Katrina Edition, about the worst any president has done in polling during an immediate crisis. He trails the numbers posted by his international peers.

As you can see, it’s possible to make a case for anything. A good case. We know Rona has changed America, and impacted much of the world at a minimum. How we’re changed, what’s temporary, what’s permanent, what will evolve, yeah, not so easy. Starting tomorrow, we’ll start looking at possibilities. These aren’t predictions. They’re maybes. I’ll try to keep a balance between “hey, this really sucks, but there are all sorts of tremendous silver linings,” “we were screwed before, now it’s worse,” and “eh, regardless of what happens, we’re sorta stuck in the same place anyway.”

One does wonder what would have happened if Rona had visited us a few weeks sooner. Would Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, or Amy Klobuchar seemed more suited to the moment than Biden (I think so, but who knows?) What would a social distancing debate with 7 contestants have looked like? Are there any camera angles wide enough? Or would they have jousted via Zoom? Oh well, no going back.

Time to look forward. And now, we will.

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