For more than three years people held their breath as many feared what would President Trump’s response be to real national crisis. Most of the thinking related to a national security crisis. The concern was whether or if the President would be ready and able to address a serious global military crisis. Would he effectively galvanize the public to recognize an urgent military matter which would harm the U.S. in general and him personally?
The Covid-19 outbreak is Trump’s crisis and it is both a global and a domestic one combined. The President may well gain an uptick in public support as the nation grapples with solving this crisis. His outrageously lackadaisical initial approach–for almost a month–, however, will eventually come back to bite him in the fall campaign. While he has begun to appear to be more assertive in his public management of the crisis, it remains to be seen how the American people—except for his core base–will respond next November.
The economic consequences of the coronavirus could well bring the United States to its worse financial position since the crash in 1929. Beyond the epidemic impetus for the panic, there has been a dramatic drop in the stock market, a huge number of businesses are shuttered—at least temporarily–, and millions of Americans have been laid off. Beyond the health emergency, the President has failed to give confidence to the economic system. He persists in flattering himself with his mastery of finance. This has driven business leaders, investors, and the general public into a huge panic.
There are two differences, however, between President Herbert Hoover after the crash and Donald Trump in 2020. First, Hoover’s failures were dragged along for almost three and a half years until Roosevelt was elected in 1932 and gave America a New Deal. Trump’s first term would end in 10 months. Second, while many of Roosevelt’s reforms in the early days were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court, F.D.R gave Americans the belief that things were turning around and that “happy days are here again.” In addition, President Roosevelt and the Congress slowly developed controls which prevented bank runs and other measures to withstand a future “crash”.
The proximity of presidential election 2020, however, does raise several issues which differentiate it as well as from the 1932 election. Today, the existence of the coronavirus creates fears of going out, voting, standing in lines, campaigning in public, rallies, etc., for Americans. While during World War II Americans were fearful about the war, they were not afraid to participate in an election. This fall, many Americans may still be reluctant to go out to vote, Republicans as well as Democrats. Many political leaders were already concerned about possible Russian or other foreign hacking in America’s November election, as the Russians are believed to have done in 2016. This fall the electoral system faces a very different test which it never had to address before.
The American voting system in its entirety may well need to be revamped. It will require computerized ballots with paper back-ups; mailed ballots also controlled with back-up paper ballots; numerous controls and back-up systems; accountable systems; and always insuring that the absolute integrity of the voting process is maintained. It will be most likely that results will not be known for many days. Vote counting will be challenged throughout the country. The courts will be inundated.
There will be elections at numerous levels from federal to state which are critically important not only for the Presidency and the political composition of the Congress as well. There also are governorships and state legislative elections. These are crucial elections for the legislative redistricting which will determine much of what will be accomplished in Washington and State Capitals for the next decade.