Tuesday, May 14, 2024


Jamelle Bouie is surprised that many voters seem to be giving Donald Trump a pass on his mismanagement of the pandemic.
... one of the most striking findings in a number of recent polls is the extent to which a large portion of the electorate has given Trump a bye for his last year in office. For example, in an April CBS News poll of key battleground states, roughly 62 percent of registered voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin said that when they look back at 2020, their state’s economy was good. In the moment, however, a majority of voters in those states disapproved of Trump’s handling of the economy.

... in June 2020, the unemployment rate had grown to 14.5 percent in Michigan, 8.7 percent in Wisconsin and 11.3 percent in Pennsylvania.

... Trump presided over a recession worsened by his total failure to manage the coronavirus. As Covid deaths mounted, Trump spread misinformation and left states scrambling for needed supplies. It was not until after the March stock market crash that the White House issued its plan to blunt the economic impact of the pandemic. And the most generous provisions found in the CARES Act, including a vast expansion of unemployment benefits, were negotiated into the bill by Democratic lawmakers.

None of this seems to matter to voters. “The economy” under Trump is simply the one that existed from Jan. 20, 2017 to March 13, 2020....
To Bouie, this is unprecedented.
No other president has gotten this kind of excused absence for mismanaging a crisis that happened on his watch. We don’t bracket the secession crisis from our assessment of James Buchanan or the Great Depression from our judgment of Herbert Hoover or the hostage crisis in Iran from our assessment of Jimmy Carter.
Does Bouie remember 9/11? In the first few years after the attacks, George W. Bush's popularity skyrocketed, with approval ratings in the immediate aftermath nearing 90%. By 2004, Bush had failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and had mired America in an unnecessary war in Iraq. That year we learned that Bush had received warnings of the impending attack and downplayed them. We also learned about the torture of prisoners by U.S. troops and intelligence agents. In spite of all this, Bush ran for reelection as the man keeping America safe -- and scored the only popular-vote win by a GOP presidential candidate in the past 36 years.

Now we assess the Bush presidency as a failure, because the Iraq War continued to be a debacle, because Bush never got bin Laden, and because he capped off his presidency with a major financial crisis. But three years after 9/11, America thought he'd done a pretty good job. (Flawed memories of Trump are occurring four years after 2020, a similar span of time.)

In the popular imagination, at least among right-wingers, Ronald Reagan is seen as a magisterial figure. He isn't remembered for the Marine barracks bombings in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. servicemembers and led to a withdrawal of U.S. servicemembers from Lebanon. (Reagan won a 49-state landslide when he ran for reelection a year later.) The admirers of Reagan also shrug off Iran-contra and the massive deficits created by his tax cuts.

Pre-Trump Republicans got mulligans when things went wrong on their watch because many Americans see them as manly defenders of Right and Truth and Good. When bad things happen under a Democratic president, these voters cast blame and see weakness -- but when bad things happen under a Republican president, they see it as a sign that we need a strong, steady, Republican hand on the tiller, even if that was the hand on the tiller when the crisis happened in the first place.

Trump failed during the pandemic, but he always acted as if he was a strong leader getting the job done. Polls consistently say that voters think he's a stronger leader than Biden -- mostly, I think, because he postures like one. So I'm not surprised that he's getting away with godawful crisis management. Republicans often do.

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