Trump’s Big Shift on Coronavirus

The Briefing, Vol. VIII, Issue 29 – This week:

  • Trump abruptly changes his tone on coronavirus
  • ‘Law and order’ shaping up as a pro-Trump issue
  • Kansas GOP faces tense primary  battle 

President 2020

Coronavirus: President Trump seems to have taken the hint.  As we noted last week, the coronavirus has really been hurting him politically. His response has been inappropriate and unpopular in many ways, costing him what was once a very strong issue for him, at least initially.

It is not Trump’s fault that Americans, fractious as always, have absurdly managed to turn the COVID-19 plague into a partisan issue. But Trump’s expressions of unrealistic optimism and demands for reopening during  a resurgence in the virus has definitely harmed him politically. His approval on its handling, as we noted last week, was way down. 

Sensing the problem, Trump has now embraced a more realistic perspective and warned that the situation will get worse before it gets better. He has also canceled the convention, which — like the social justice protests — likely would have resulted in nothing except further dissemination of the coronavirus. This shift in attitude is a genuinely good thing for Trump. His allies have recognized it as such, and they are correct.

Curbing rioters: Trump’s strong week came with a much more serious approach to the virus, as well as a concerted effort to reassert law and order in Democratic cities that are currently veering out of control. The decision to send federal agents to protect federal buildings from lawless rioters has been treated as controversial in some corners of the media. But in reality, it is probably the best thing Trump has going for him. 

If he is lucky, antifa rioters will continue setting fires and looting for months to come. This is not going unnoticed by people in suburban Minneapolis, Milwaukee, or Denver. Nothing else possesses the promise of restoring Trump’s fortunes quite like the hankering for law and order that an appeasement-minded Democratic administration can inspire in the face of overt self-justifying criminality.

It  won’t really come as a surprise, but the media have really gone above and beyond to conceal from the public the fact that these demonstrations are violent riots and have been raging for weeks. In Portland, Ore., for example, the media were satisfied to ignore two months of riots and arson. I was only the supposedly controversial involvement of the Feds (to protect federal buildings, according to the official account) that forced journalists to acknowledge what’s going on. Rioters are literally taking actions that would maim or kill people if they were a bit smarter about it — for example,  attempting to blind federal agents with lasers, and barricading the doors of federal courthouses late at night with wooden boards and trying to set them on fire so that DHS officers could not escape.

The antifa crowd are violent and ill-intentioned, but they are also usually not the sharpest tools in the shed. The failure of Democrats to take the easy path of denouncing them is very hard to explain. It does not at all speak in their favor, and it threatens to damage them politically. This should be a natural, easy “Sista Souljah” moment for them. Yet they dawdle, evidently fearful of saying anything that isn’t fully supportive of the Marxist movement currently stoking violence (and spreading coronavirus) in the streets of important American cities, using racism as its excuse.

Mail vote: One of Republicans’ great fears about the 2020 election is that Trump’s attacks on mail-in voting harm the party’s ability to convince their own to vote by mail. This is a very bad argument to have at election-time with one’s voters, especially for a party that depends heavily on high turnout by older voters. One of the benefits of expanded mail-in voting is that older voters, more vulnerable to the coronavirus, can risk voting in order to help Trump without putting their own lives at risk. This is vital for Trump, who will lose if senior citizens fail to turn out.

Senate 2020

The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a memo last week claiming that all of the Democrats’ advantages in this year’s Senate races come down to their having spent an immense nine-figure amount on advertising without any serious Republican response. This invites several questions, even if true. For example, isn’t it a clear acknowledgement that Republicans trail in important fundraising metrics?

Butt fine — it may well be that the Republican ads now running at last will help bring down a peg challengers such as John Hickenlooper in Colorado,  Mark Kelly in Arizona, and Sara Gideon in Maine. But all of these races are genuinely competitive, and that fact must inspire terror in the hearts of Republicans everywhere.

If Democrats get a Senate majority along with the presidency in November, they seem likely to engage in the sort of norm-breaking which, by projection, they have been trying to attribute to Trump. This includes a desire to pack the Supreme Court and add states to the union in order to solidify Senate control beyond Republicans’ ability to regain it. There is a naked power grab afoot on the Left that could potentially tear the nation apart. And naturally, the media seems happy to gloss over it, as if it just weren’t a thing.

Kansas: A group aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is running ads to aid Rep. Roger Marshall, R, in the August 4 primary.. Marshall, who represents the western four-fifths of Kansas,  is running against former Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the primary. Kobach, having already lost statewide, is feared as the harbinger of another Republican disaster in the state.  

Tennessee: There is clearly an influence battle afoot here as conservative GOP  Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn has endorsed one candidate — Bill Hagerty — and Ted Cruz has endorsed the more anti-establishment conservative choice, Manny Sethi.

Trump had earlier endorsed Hagerty. However, Sethi seems to be the most Trump-y of the candidates — an immigrant who supports Trump’s immigration plan. The election is Aug. 6, on a Thursday.