Monday, October 26, 2020


President Trump thinks the pandemic is nearly over.
“We are coming around, we’re rounding the turn, we have the vaccines, we have everything,” Trump said at a rally in Londonderry, N.H., on Sunday. “Even without the vaccines, we’re rounding the turn. It’s going to be over.”
He says this amid a surge of infections in the U.S. and an outbreak in his vice president's office. None of this has changed his message. His own infection didn't change his message: The virus isn't so bad. It doesn't cause serious consequences for most people. It will disappear soon on its own. Vaccines will be here in weeks. We have a cure. And besides, it doesn't cause serious consequences for most people.

Could anything make him change the way he talks about the virus?

Oh, sure, one thing could: a Joe Biden victory.

I don't know what Trump will do about the pandemic in the lame-duck period if Biden wins. It's easy to imagine that he'd want to stop funneling money to drug companies for treatments and vaccines, just because he wouldn't want vaccines or treatments to arrive on Biden's watch, and he'd want to punish the drug companies for failing to deliver a vaccine before Election Day.

But if he loses, I think he'll spend most of the lame-duck period trying to overturn the results of the election. That will completely distract him. So I suspect that the federal government's inadequate response to the virus will be largely unchanged.

But as soon as Biden is sworn in, Trump will discover the seriousness of the crisis. I assume he'll start doing a weekly Fox & Friends appearance again, and he'll probably holding regular MAGA rallies. (I believe he'll hold one during Biden's inauguration, to announce his 2024 presidential candidacy.) Also, he'll have more time than ever to tweet.

America won't turn a corner instantly. Even if there's a vaccine soon, it will take time to roll out, and it might not be very effective. Case numbers will probably be high all winter.

So Trump -- and Fox News, and the MAGA base, and congressional Republicans -- will suddenly notice that the coronavirus is bad and we're in a national crisis. The crisis, of course, will be all the fault of Joe Biden and the Democrats. We'll hear a lot of talk about how many people died in New York State nursing homes in the early days of the crisis, under a "Democrat governor." High case numbers in "Democrat cities" will be cherry-picked. Biden's failure to instantly get case numbers down will be endlessly analyzed. Even if he does get case numbers down, a decrease in fatalities will persist for a few weeks after the case numbers start to decline. That will be Biden's fault, too.

We all assumed that nothing could get Republicans to take the pandemic seriously. We're probably about to learn that that wasn't true. It will become real to them as soon as they can blame all of it on Democrats.

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