Now is the Time for Politics
Being empathetic during this crisis doesn't mean we can't hold Trump accountable
The President being airlifted to the hospital to be treated for a deadly virus is a crisis in every sense of the word. An enfeebled and absent President poses a huge threat to governance for a nation in the middle of multiple crises.
As this situation has unfolded, there has been a growing sentiment among the political chattering class that this self-inflicted crisis is a reason to press pause on politics. I could not disagree more.
This is the exact moment for politics and not just because we are a month from the end of Election Season. The Coronavirus pandemic nationally and the outbreak at the White House is not a natural disaster or an attack from a foreign enemy, it is the direct result of the absolute incompetence and incredible stupidity of Donald Trump and the Republican Party. They are directly responsible for the death of tens of thousands of Americans and the loss of millions of jobs.
Elections are the primary vehicle for holding our politicians accountable and Trump and the Republicans must be held accountable. They are too dumb and dangerous to be in charge of anything. We must do everything within our power to make sure they pay a steep political price that will never be forgotten. The best way to protect the American people is to defeat Donald Trump and every Republican on the ballot. Deference to an ill President is not sufficient reason to defer the political accountability that President and his party so richly deserve
Balancing Empathy and Accountability
Most of the time the “thoughts and prayers” offered by politicians are not worth the tweet they are typed on. The sentiment is performative and perfunctory — nothing more than checking a media-generated box. That is not the case with Joe Biden. He is a man with a bottomless well of empathy. I have no doubt that he sincerely hopes for the Trumps to recover. True empathy — Biden empathy — is when one can feel compassion even for people who neither deserve it nor have earned it. It’s not just that Trump and Biden are political opponents. In addition to smearing Biden’s son on the debate stage, the irresponsible behavior of Trump and his entourage put Biden and his family at risk of contracting a deadly virus. Biden’s compassion for someone so undeserving is a testament to why he is the exact right man to lead this nation in this moment. With 200,000 of our citizens having been killed in the last six months, we have rarely needed an empathetic President more.
However, empathy and accountability is a not a binary choice. As Democrats and as Americans we can simultaneously wish that Donald Trump and the growing number of Republican politicians he has infected recover AND hold them accountable for their misdeeds. No one should stop making the political case against Trump and his enablers — the stakes are too damn high.
Asymmetric Advertising Strategies
My first response to the news that the Biden campaign was suspending their negative advertising was to (figuratively) bang my head on the nearest hard object. I generally hate sops to the pearl-clutching Washington etiquette police. Trump’s failure to prepare for and respond to COVID is the most important issue in this election. He shouldn’t get a pass in the final stretch just because of a failure to do the bare fucking minimum to protect himself. Of course, the Trump campaign is continuing their negative ads and sent an email attacking Biden for being asleep in his basement after Biden suspended his ads. It’s worth noting that when that email went out, Biden was giving a speech in Michigan and Trump was hiding from public view while preparing to go to the hospital.
If I was the Biden campaign, I am not sure I would have pulled the ads. But I understand why they did — it is consistent with a strategy that highlights Biden as someone capable of uniting a divided country. A series of harsh negative ads appearing during the commercial breaks of newscasts covering Biden’s calls for unity in a moment of national crisis could seem discordant. For the folks worried that unilateral disarmament gives Trump an advantage, I would note that polling indicates that ads that make the case for Biden are a much higher strategic priority than ads that make the case against Trump. However, just because this is the right choice for Biden doesn’t mean that other Democratic campaigns should follow suit. This decision reinforces Biden’s core message. That will not be true for every candidate. A number Democratic Senate candidates, in particular, have a huge imperative to keep pressing the case that their opponents are Trump flunkies.
In general, our party needs to be careful not to handcuff ourselves by creating a situation where any negative comment about Trump while he is ill is considered out of bounds and will generate a cycle of negative press coverage. We cannot stop making the argument that Donald Trump and the Republicans are too weak and incompetent to protect Americans — let alone themselves.
Rage At All of the Republicans
It is fitting that the COVID outbreak that has infected the President and the top echelons of the Republican Party began at a mask-less, unsocially distanced event to celebrate a Supreme Court nominee being rushed through the process in order to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The attendees were so filled with glee at the prospect of kicking millions off their health care that they were basically spitting in each others mouths (seriously, watch the video. It’s gross). The White House event to celebrate the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett embodies the dangerous incompetence and cruelty that has defined the Republican Party since long before they invited Trump into the fold. I can’t help but noting that the Republicans chose to exercise their “freedom” to not wear a mask at an event to celebrate the person they hope will take away a woman’s right to choose.
This is not a situation where Trump has acted irresponsibly and the rest of the party has been better. Every Republican has enabled and defended Trump. They have helped spread his misinformation about masks and the lethality of the virus. They are co-conspirators is his malignant narcissistic negligence. In just the last few days:
Republican Senator Ron Johnson went to a crowded event after he knew he had been exposed to COVID and while he was awaiting test results.
Three Republican Congressman from Minnesota flew home on a commercial flight in violation of rules prohibiting people from flying that had recently been exposed to COVID.
Republican Senator Roger Wicker, who knew he had been exposed to COVID, flew home to Mississippi with his mask pulled down putting every passenger on the plane at risk.
Simply beating Trump is not enough. Every single Republican needs to be defeated. They need an electoral thrashing so severe that they cannot sniff power for years. This time of crisis is the exact time for politics, because politics is the only way to end this crisis.