Kudos to the InsiderNJ team for its superb special edition devoted exclusively to Covid-19, which expertly assesses the interplay between policy considerations and political imperatives. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump does not possess even those skills exhibited in the preparation of this report. As a result, the Coronavirus Pandemic worsens every day, and the Trump reelection campaign is headed inexorably towards a landslide defeat.
As is his wont, Trump ignored scientific concerns in fashioning a response to the Coronavirus Pandemic and focused on short range superficial political concerns. The result was the worst presidential decision-making debacle over the past 150 years.
When the Coronavirus Pandemic first approached our shores in February and March of this year, the consensus of the scientific community was nearly unanimous in terms of what action should be taken. Specifically, they advocated that there should be a national uniformly stringent shelter-in-place lockdown, not to be lifted until the rate of new cases was driven to a low rate such as less than one per 100,000 people per day. New increases would be limited by a combination of testing, contact tracing, case isolation and extensive monitoring of positive tests.
Had Trump taken this advice, he would be cruising to a reelection triumph right now. The number of Covid deaths would have been tens of thousands less than the current total of 171,000, and the economy would have already recovered from the negative impact of the shutdown.
Trump and his incompetent political/policy advisor in residence, Jared Kushner would not even consider a nationally imposed shutdown. They dreaded the possibility that such a shutdown would result in a decline in the stock market. In the politically infantile view of Trump/Kushner, the Trump-Pence ticket would be defeated if there was any stock market slide.
In addition, Donald Trump and Jared Kushner displayed an obscene disregard for human life if its preservation was not compatible with their grossly selfish political concerns.
As Katherine Eban reported in Vanity Fair, since the virus had hit blue states hardest, the Kushner team decided that a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. The political advisors involved with Kushner actually wrongly believed that the virus would be relegated to Democratic states. Accordingly, Trump and Kushner could blame those governors as part of what they deemed to be an effective political strategy,” https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2020/07/how-jared-kushners-secret-testing-plan-went-poof-into-thin-air
So due to the thoroughly unsophisticated and inhumane political analysis of Trump/Kushner and the total disregard on their part for scientific concerns, Donald Trump and Jared Kushner developed the most foolhardy Coronavirus response conceivable. There would be no national lockdown. The decision as to a lockdown would be left to the individual states, and Trump/ Kushner would pressure them to prematurely lift the lockdown.
The results were catastrophic, both policy-wise and politically.
The number of Coronavirus deaths skyrocketed to a totally unanticipated extent, making the United States the world leader in this regard. And while the stock market avoided a massive decline, the overall economy suffered its worst decline since the Great Depression.
In turn, this has resulted in fatal damage to Donald Trump’s reelection chances. All three of the polls with an A plus rating published during the past week, to wit, the Marist Poll, the Monmouth Poll, and the ABC -Washington Post Poll give Joe Biden a double-digit lead. And Alan Lichtman, Professor of History at American University and the leading presidential election forecaster of the academic world, with a perfect record since 1984, has predicted a Biden-Harris victory.
The Biden victory train has been further accelerated by the announcement yesterday of Postmaster-General Louis DeJoy that he is abandoning his efforts to destroy the US Postal Service. This constitutes an abandonment of the most nefarious and dangerous effort of Donald Trump to steal Election 2020. Indeed, it also is the ultimate victory of Nancy Pelosi over Donald Trump.
So the Democratic ticket of former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris appears to be destined for a landslide victory, while the Trump Pence ticket is inexorably headed for defeat. The only question will be how the Coronavirus affects social events relating to the Biden-Harris inaugural.
The most significant change in Biden administration Coronavirus policy from the Trump years will be the establishment of sound medical science, rather than inane Trumpean politics as the primary guiding factor in decision making.
Both Trump administration officials and Republican members of the Senate and House of Representatives have obscenely practiced an anti-science McCarthyism by their defamatory attacks against Dr. Anthony Fauci. Those days of national nightmare will be over as of the Inauguration of President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Currently, the scientific community is overwhelmingly in support of a national lockdown plan devised by Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. The details of the plan and the background are set forth in a column authored for the New York Times by Dr. Osterholm and Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
The plan calls for a national uniformly stringent restrictive coordinated lockdown, state by state, for up to six weeks to crush the spread of the virus to less than one new case per 100,000 people per day.
The plan would mandate sheltering in place for everyone but the truly essential workers. People must stay at home and leave only for essential reasons: food shopping and visits to doctors and pharmacies while wearing masks and washing hands frequently.
I believe that given Biden’s determination to comply with sound science, he will issue as of January 21, 2021 Executive Orders enacting some variant of the Osterholm plan. During the transition, he will lay the political groundwork for enactment of the plan, explaining to the American public why the plan is necessary and having advocates of the scientific community provide assurance that it will work.
The American public will be less than delighted about the economic pain resulting from the Osterholm Plan. They are, however, likely to accept the assurances from Biden and Osterholm that the plan will work. Accordingly, Biden will be able to proceed with the plan and guide it to conclusion, in spite of the fact that there will be other factors inherited from the Trump administration that will continue to afflict the economy, particularly the gargantuan Trump debt and deficits.
There is, however, one governor who will be severely politically impacted by a Biden national lockdown. That governor is New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, who is up for reelection in November, 2021.
Murphy’s problem is that he previously imposed lockdowns of his own. He showed great personal courage and integrity in doing so. Phil Murphy demonstrated that he was willing to place health over wealth.
And the Murphy lockdowns were as successful as could be expected in flattening the curve and limiting the increases in new Covid cases. They would have been more successful had other governors had Phil Murphy’s courage and principle and imposed lockdowns of their own.
Still, Phil Murphy is likely to take a hit in his approval ratings after the Biden lockdown. He will prepare the New Jersey electorate for Biden’s forthcoming measure during the presidential transition. Republicans, however, will excoriate Murphy for his previous lockdown, wrongfully claiming that it was unnecessary.
I have little doubt, however, that Phil Murphy will survive and be reelected.
By April, the Biden lockdown will have been completed, and its national success will have been established. Murphy’s recovery in the polls will have begun.
And in the Fall, 2021, Biden will be campaigning effectively for Murphy’s reelection in New Jersey. Although the economy will continue to slump, in view of the debt and deficit nightmares bequeathed to him by Trump, Joe Biden will be a popular president, especially after maintaining a successful response to the Coronavirus. His honesty and courageous anti-racism stance will make him a most pleasant change from the grossly mendacious, bigoted, and misogynist Donald Trump.
At the time of the Inauguration of Phil Murphy for a second term in January, 2022, the slogan will be, “New Jersey and Joe Biden – Perfect Together!”
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.