Will the coronavirus seal Trump's re-election?
Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, I heard from two Democrats — one a stereotypically artsy-fartsy gay friend, the other a political science professor — how good it was that George W. Bush, rather than Al Gore, had been elected president. The professor, in fact, stated this to her whole class. The funny thing is that the class was about the rise of "post-materialist" voting patterns (think climate change voters, abortion voters, feminists, the religious right, etc.). Here we had a college prof regressing to the most material of values — national and in fact personal security and survival — and admitting that the weak Democrat whom she had voted for just ten months prior was not man enough to provide it. Instead, she and my friend found themselves looking to the tough-talking Texan daddy figure, Dubya Bush, at least for a few weeks or months, until the horror wore off. For that short window, the Culture War and all the other nonsense didn't matter.
Today, we face something potentially more serious — and of much greater duration — than 9-11. A Military Times headline yesterday stated, "U.S. military prepping for coronavirus pandemic." Recognized experts and current and former government officials and advisers state that containment has failed and that the Chinese virus will break out here and everywhere. China is under a de facto worldwide transportation embargo. Amazon is reportedly hoarding Chinese-made goods (essentially almost everything it sells, other than books, foodstuffs, and hygiene/beauty products) in anticipation of a logistical breakdown. Uncle Sam is preparing to evacuate consular staff from Hong Kong as he already did from the mainland. (Singapore likely comes next, then perhaps Thailand.) Anyone who steps into a clinic anywhere in the U.S. is being asked if he has traveled to China or been near someone who has. This is not random or undirected. Our federal government is ramping up, even if President Trump doesn't tweet much about it.
Most hardcore online news junkies have by now seen the videos of three or five bagged bodies piled into vans in China, or the one with ten bodies in a room in a morgue. It is a sad sight, yet so far, the footage that has evaded the censors and escaped China's closed internet has not been overwhelmingly disturbing. It's not yet Rider on a Pale Horse–type stuff. But as things roll downhill, all it would take is one shocking video of a flatbed or dump truck overflowing with stuffed body bags, coupled with a few random outbreaks and school closures here in the States, and the soccer moms who always decide who will rule our country will veritably flip out.
It wouldn't take much of a body count here to start a panic — people are just not ready for this sort of thing. If one child comes up hot with this scary and mysterious pathogen, his school will likely close for some time. If two children in different schools within the same school district come down with it, the entire district may close while the under-qualified, panicked local health authority goes nuts testing everyone and sending the samples to some overwhelmed federal lab. In that case, every team of working parents in that area must decide: which parent stays home and doesn't get paid? Even parents in (up to that point) completely unaffected areas, on the other side of the country, perhaps, might freak out as if it were the day of the Sandy Hook massacre.
When it gets to that point, we will be treated to media coverage of emergency reprogramming of federal funds, crash programs for production of some miracle antiviral drug, prioritization protocols for shortage antiviral treatment (newborn children, pregnant women, medics, nuclear power plant workers, etc.), National Guard medical unit mobilizations, VA hospitals canceling non-emergency procedures and converting entire floors into pneumonia wards, the heroic efforts of 3M Corporation to find alternate sources of imported parts for its U.S.-assembled protective gear, and other such news with a "Why We Fight" feel. President Trump will look solemn and presidential as some egghead in a white lab coat stands next to him, droning into the microphone.
In that context, not too many voters will care as to which clown is driving the clown car in any given Democrat state primary, or who wins that clown nomination. Most clear-headed people will acknowledge that it's just not the time to be taking a risk on any one of these bozos.
The soccer moms will look to Alpha Male Business Daddy Who Built the Wall against All Odds, not some geek-faced, joke-named, empty suit mayor of a declining town that no one outside of one state has ever heard of. The warm fuzzy thrill of watching Saint Pete presenting his lovely "husband" to Vlad Putin or the king of Arabia can be deferred by four years. Cheering for our first pseudoaboriginal female president can wait four years. We can wait for Heart Attack Bernie, if he can make it to 2024. It's always nice to experiment and delve into ever-more-sparkling dimensions of uninhibited Progress, but we will have bigger concerns soon.
The political circus will be severely curtailed as the mood of the nation shifts to a war footing. No, President Trump won't be re-impeached for tweeting his support of Roger Stone. The Democrats are still fighting the last war (and it was a lost war for them, but it's all they know.) The news supercycle is about to shift decisively in favor of our large-and-in-charge chief executive, who will preside with his "serious face" over televised emergency meetings, and stand like a 50-foot basalt wall between your family and the hungry, shrieking legions of chaos and doom.
If the epidemic gets bad enough here, we cannot discount the possibility of Trump winning even the popular vote this year, assuming the virus does not impede a popular vote. "Materialism" may very well trump "post-materialism" to an astounding degree.
Image credit: Pixabay, public domain.