While Donald Trump tries to glue the economy together in the run up to November’s Presidential Election, the prime challenger to the throne is nowhere to be found. “Sleepy Joe” might have missed his best shot to land a blow on a vulnerable Trump.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has exposed our limitations as a society in fundamental areas: income inequality, healthcare and basic job security. This has all been underpinned by a glaring lack of decisive leadership in the areas most affected by the ongoing global pandemic.
In the United States, the national total of confirmed cases has now surpassed 119,000, with 17 states reporting tallies of at least 1,000 infections and the pressure continues to grow on President Trump to do more to turn the tide and “flatten the curve”.
More popular than ever…for now
Trump’s approach to dealing with this crisis has been clumsy and badly informed from the start and nobody has been terribly surprised.
Linda Qiu of the The New York Times wrote, “For months, the president has downplayed the severity of the pandemic, overstated the impact of his policies and potential treatments, blamed others and tried to rewrite the history of his response.”
Despite inconsistent and erratic messages in the face of what he dubbed the “Chinese virus”, an ABC News/Ipsos poll showed that 55% of Americans approve of the president’s management of the crisis, his highest ratings to date.
It’s not uncommon for the US President to receive an extra nudge of support in times of crisis but considering that the weekly claims for unemployment insurance rose to 3,283,000 between March 15 and 22, this surge in support hardly seems sustainable.
Niall Stanage, White House Columnist at The Hill, remarked how this figure was more than four times bigger than the previous all-time high, which was recorded in 1982. As the measures put in place by the Trump administration struggle to quell the virus, the unemployment figures look set to plummet even further in the coming weeks.
This should be a time when the US President should be on the ropes.
But where is Joe?
Biden has had a host of opportunities to capitalise on Trump’s shambolic start to the coronavirus outbreak, which he famously branded “a hoax,” and the initial overly casual approach has since led to soaring numbers of confirmed cases of infection. Couple this with a now creaking economy and imminent mass job losses and it’s fair to say that Joe Biden had all the ammunition he needed to catch the current occupant of the White House square on the chin. But he spurned that opportunity, electing to ride out the storm from the safety of his home, a decision questioned by many Democrats.
Biden’s victory over Bernie Sanders in Michigan, on March 10th, pretty much sealed the Democratic race, but his curious absence during the most serious humanitarian crisis facing his country in a century has seen the questions that dogged him from the start of his campaign resurface.
The montages of Joe Biden’s fading cognitive state are becoming increasingly difficult to watch and one has to ask whether he is up for the enormity of the task before him. If he appears so feeble so early in the race, how is he going to go the distance in what promises to be a gruelling slog?
The New Yorker report how, while Biden has gone into lockdown, “Trump began appearing at daily White House press briefings, which have become, day by day, more like campaign rallies.”
#WhereIsJoe continues to make waves across social media platforms and Biden’s performances from home have been criticised.
The Washington Post report how the speech from his home after the March 17 primaries was compared by supporters to “a hostage video” because of the poorly lit backdrop and grainy footage.
They detail how he later tried a virtual town hall, which was riddled with technical glitches and, during a recent Zoom press conference, he said that it had taken four days for his campaign to set up live-streaming equipment in his home — not exactly inspiring stuff.
The Guardian describe how Trump continues to eclipse Biden’s virtual presence and, right now, the real leader of the Democratic reaction to COVID-19 has been Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York. His daily updates on the toll of the crisis in New York have now become prime-time TV and his forthrightness and assertiveness have earned him plaudits among many New Yorkers from both sides of the political divide.
Is the “Chinese virus” the only thing that can stop Trump?
The president’s ratings may be at an all-time high but given the inevitability of another wave of jobs cuts, business closures, and the further depletion of savings, Trump’s own curve will flatten and plummet if the economy is halted until late Spring, as many predict.
The Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, said last week that the US may already be in recession, but it remains to be seen how much of the blame will be put on Trump come November considering the world has been brought to its knees by a freak event.
There’s going to come a time when Biden has to try to win this, rather than waiting for Trump to trip over himself. He was never going to be able to shout louder than the New Yorker, but there’s always a way to shout smarter.
Trump can’t be faulted for consistency; he’s still the same inconsistent Donald with the same alpha male approach to his critics and opponents, but with his economy faltering, he looks vulnerable.
Navigating through the incessant Trump noise won’t be easy but if Biden doesn’t step up soon, he looks certain to limp to an underwhelming defeat without laying a glove on the incumbent President.