The Briefing, Vol. VIII, Issue 12

This week:

  • Biden has won — Sanders just has to admit it
  • Political consequences of coronavirus
  • Congress struggles with how to deal with the plague

The world’s news is now clearly dominated by coronavirus. Everything — commerce, social life, and yes, even politics — has been put on hold. 

Well, that last bit is not exactly true. Good people have put politics aside for the moment, but not everyone is good. The media and the far Left — although not necessarily all Democratic politicians — have tried very hard to propagate the idea that Trump caused or is causing the virus and its spread to be inordinately bad. There is really no justification for this. In many cases, the same people disparaged or vociferously opposed measures (such as Trump’s early ban on travel from China) that have undoubtedly saved lives.

Meanwhile, many politicians on both sides have managed to put politics aside and work together. Here is a quick overview of the state of politics in the period of coronavirus self-quarantine.

Elections: It’s hard to quibble with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, R, who postponed his state’s March 17 primary at the last minute. Nor with the decisions of other governors in Georgia and Louisiana who have done the same. Voting machine levers and shared pencils in voting booths represent great ways to spread disease far and wide. 

Although DNC Chairman Tom Perez complained about the cancellations, his words ring hollow. To hold a vote amidst a pandemic would actually represent a form of voter suppression — it would force responsible people and older or otherwise vulnerable people to abstain from voting.

Indeed, one must ask whether it was wise for other states — such as Illinois and Florida — to hold votes at all. It’s quite possibly that Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of the last pro-life Democrats in the U.S. House, lost his primary narrowly only because of coronavirus. The disease might have caused older Democrats in his district to abstain from voting.

Meanwhile, the presidential race does not seem competitive enough at this point to justify continued risk of infection — which is to say, probably the votes can be delayed without risk of affecting the outcome. Where presidential primaries were held, Joe Biden ran the table. At this point, Bernie Sanders has no real business staying in the race — even 2016 Sanders supporter Tulsi Gabbard has dropped out and endorsed Biden, noting in her video announcement that the primary is all over. 

Democrats remain worried about Biden’s mental acuity, his age, and his apparent lack of energy. But at this point, he is their man, come what may. 

White House: President Trump’s record on the coronavirus has been mixed. At first, he tried to downplay the epidemic — a very bad move based on wishful thinking, apparent ignorance of the situation, and possibly the desire to prevent panic. 

But Trump still handled it a lot better than he’s been givn credit for, at least by the media. The initial travel restrictions he imposed on China, complained about loudly by Democrats and in the media, now appear to have been prescient. Even the World Health Organization was wrong about that where Trump was right. 

And the media narrative that there is something racist about calling out China’s regime for its role in causing the global pandemic is just — well, weird. The public hasn’t been buying it, either. Even as Trump remains at his customarily low levels of popularity, a 55 percent majority of Americans approve of his handling of coronavirus. 

The political talking point for Democrats on this issue has been shifting. Before this past weekend, it was that Trump was racist for calling it “Chinese coronavirus.” On the Sunday talk shows, coming from the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bill de Blasio, it was that Trump is killing people by not immediately invoking the Defense Production Act. This is a dubious claim, although strangely it plays to something central to Trump’s personal ideology of “America First” and returning industrial production to the U.S. from abroad.

Congress: Both parties in Congress are hell-bent on stimulating the economy with cash, and the Fed is providing rate cuts. These are both poor ideas, given that the economy isn’t struggling for a lack of liquidity. When the “problem” is a deliberate (and of course justifiable) effort by everyone to stop producing and purchasing things, the economy really needs a treatment or vaccine. 

In the meantime, certain individuals and businesses — the ones who cannot work remotely or operate with remote workers — need some money to tide them over for perhaps two months. 

So what’s needed is not a stimulus, but targeted relief to compensate workers and businesses that have been forced into idleness in order to prevent the spread of the virus. 

The Republican approach in the Senate seems especially bad. For individuals, it bases compensation on 2018 income, which really has no relation to anyone’s current needs. Meanwhile, it includes a large bailout fund for businesses, with a surprising amount of flexibility for the Treasury Department almost reminiscent of 2009. 

Democrats blocked it Sunday, and they have nothing better to offer at this point — they could well suffer politically for preventing this vote. No one knows yet what will go into the House package that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., plans to present, but there has been talk of expanded unemployment insurance — possibly a more apt tool for compensating those forced not to work during this period. (Note that public officials literally want to subsidize people to not work right now.)

Markets will be spooked again this week as the House and Senate struggle to reach some kind of agreement.


Meanwhile, coronavirus is playing out differently in the various states. Here are a few examples.

Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis, a conservative Republican who has proven massively popular in his state, has controversially chosen to leave at least some of his state’s beaches open. This may not end up being a very big deal, but there is at least some risk involved. Floridians are unusually old, and the old tend to be put at a greater risk by the harmless spread of the disease between younger, healthier people.

New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio continue their perpetual intra-party feud. They spent the last week one-upping one another, with de Blasio warning of a possible lockdown order and Cuomo dismissing it as an impossibility. 

It is hard to know who is in the right here. Both men are trying to make a name for themselves out of this crisis, but it actually seems like Cuomo might actually be working constructively in the process. Although he hasn’t hesitated to criticize Trump, Cuomo has had some warm words for Trump’s handling of coronavirus — a contrast to de Blasio and some other Democrats. 

West Virginia: Gov. Jim Justice, R, whose popularity has been weak since long before coronavirus, was still telling West Virginians to go out to restaurants and eat last Monday — he only changed his tune Tuesday night after his state’s first confirmed case. 

Justice, who is up for re-election this year, faces a primary against two little-known Republican opponents. But with robust support from President Trump, he will be difficult to beat in a state where Trump will get at least 65 percent of the vote in November.

Senate 2020

Georgia: Both Sens. Kelly Loeffler, R, and David Perdue, R, seem to have pretty airtight defenses about any allegations of selling off stocks ahead of the coronavirus crash based on illegal or unethical insider information.

If it’s true that neither manages their own money, then that should provide exoneration. However, expect Democrats to use it against both, and expect Rep. Doug Collins, R, to use the allegation against Loeffler in their coming primary.