, 11.24.2020 04:21 PM

My latest in the Sun: pandemic politics for poltroons

Donald Trump: you’re fired.

And Joe Biden didn’t fire you. The coronavirus did.

By voting day, Nov. 3, nearly 60% of Americans disapproved — or strongly disapproved — of Trump’s handling of the pandemic that is killing about a thousand of them every single day.

Ask any political consultant: when that many voters disapprove of what you are doing, you’re toast.

It wasn’t always that way for Trump. Way back at the start of the pandemic, Americans supported his leadership. At the end of March, in fact, when it felt like the world just might be ending, Trump’s performance was approved of by a narrow majority of Americans, said polling aggregator FiveThirtyEight.

That all changed on or about the first week of April. That was the week that U.S. COVID-19 deaths surged past the symbolic number of 10,000. After that, Trump was never again seen as handling the pandemic well. From July onward, the U.S. President’s performance rating remained constant: 60% of Americans were unhappy or very unhappy with him.

In those circumstances, Joe Biden essentially needed to maintain a pulse and smile a lot, which is what he did. His campaign, meanwhile, devoted itself to getting out the Democratic vote early — a process Trump mocked and attacked. It would prove to be a fatal mistake. Biden won mainly because of the support of those who voted early.

So, the pandemic can certainly end political careers, as it did for one Donald J. Trump. But elsewhere — in Canada, for instance — what effect does COVID-19 have on political outcomes?

Well, up here, there has not been a single incumbent government that has been defeated during the pandemic. Not one.

The minority NDP government in British Columbia was transformed into a majority, mid-pandemic. Same thing happened in New Brunswick: the minority Progressive Conservative government was elevated to a majority. In Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Party was re-elected, too — to its fourth consecutive majority government.

Federally, there hasn’t been a pandemic election, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was recently clearly tempted to engineer his own defeat.

In October, Trudeau refused to go along with Opposition demands to create a Parliamentary committee tasked with probing the propriety of government spending. Trudeau sent out his House Leader to state that the Liberal government considered the vote on the committee to be a confidence matter — meaning there would be an election if the government fell

It was absurd, it was ridiculous, it was unnecessary. It was also uniquely Canadian, too: only here — with our preoccupation with peace, order and good government — would a federal election be held over creating a committee!

If masked-up Canadians had trooped to the polls, would Trudeau have won? Yes. Ipsos pegged Trudeau’s support at six points above the Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives around the time of the committee contretemps. Abacus Data said the Liberal lead was as much as eight points.

Angus Reid found a smaller Grit advantage over the Tories — but two-thirds of Canadians, roughly, said that Trudeau’s government had handled the pandemic well. That figure has remained more or less constant since March, Angus Reid noted.

So what does it all mean? The polls don’t tell us that, exactly. But everyone accepts that the pandemic has massively disrupted our lives — politically, economically, socially, culturally. It is perhaps the biggest change most of us have ever faced as citizens.

That’s why incumbent governments are getting re-elected. Unless politicians have completely botched their response to the pandemic, voters are opting for the devils they know over the ones they don’t. They’ve quite enough disruption in their lives, thank you very much. They don’t want more.

Donald Trump is the exception. He made such a mess of his pandemic response, they couldn’t forgive him.

So they fired him.

19 Comments

  1. Chris Scott says:

    It will be interesting to see if Trump is just the first to fall at the feet of the pandemic or just a one off. While his pandemic response was clearly inadequate, and in my opinion near criminal, his GOP enablers seemed to fair well.
    I suspect if an election were held in Canada, Ontario or Toronto this past summer each of Mr. Trudeau, Ford and Tory would have been rewarded with significant mandates. Now that we are deep into the second wave I’m not so sure now. The people in my social circles were complimentary following wave 1 but now that large parts of the country are going into lockdowns at Christmas I’m guessing there will be some political price to pay. People have COVID fatigue – somebody will have to pay for that. Of course I think it will ultimately rest upon how effective they are at rolling out a vaccine. If the first Canadians get their shots months after the first Americans I think they’ll all be toast. If on the other hand the program goes well they’ll likely be rewarded at the ballot box. I recognize most of this will fall at Trudeau’s feet having National accountability for Health Canada.
    Of course all of this is just my personal opinion and I’ve been wrong in my political predictions many times!

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Chris,

      It was significant that Moderna said today that the best its vaccine could do is lessen the severity of symptoms. Wonder what Pfizer will say about their vaccine?

  2. the real Sean says:

    I’m loving the cabinet picks. Experienced, travelled, reasonable, knowledgeable people who will make governing seem very boring. Making government seem boring is a highly skilled artform and that’s precisely what is needed right now.

  3. Gilbert says:

    If Erin O’Toole can attract the support of voters in the centre, he has an excellent chance. Many Canadians can now see that Justin Trudeau isn’t what he promised. He also appears to have lost interest in governing now that he’s not travelling and having pictures with celebrities.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Gilbert,

      I don’t think it’s 70-30, or even 60-40, in Trudeau’s favour. My estimate would be 55-45 but O’Toole is reasonably competitive. So, we still have a decent shot at winning.

  4. Phil Brunet says:

    My subjective, unsupported, Mulleresque evidence-free, utterly personal opinion is that six months down the road the pseudo-Biden, de-facto-Harris presidency will have become an undiluted disaster of historical proportions and more importantly, of historical import. Chi-com-level corruption, a plethora of dirty little wars here and there, ballooning violent crime from ever more neo-citizen illegals, widespread economic collapse, Democrat attempts to inflict state socialism via quasi-enabling acts, and burgeoning patriotic militias. Happy Holidays!

    • The Doctor says:

      Do you have any actual evidence that increases in violent crime rates are primarily, or even significantly, attributable to “neo-citizen illegals”? Just curious.

      And I don’t mean Trump election lawyer “evidence”. I mean actual evidence.

      • Phil Brunet says:

        “Illegal Alien Charged in Grisly Murders” (found in 15 sec.) & variations on that theme, as many as you can google, and always some recent ones.

        Also, they are all – every one of them – “illegal” for a reason.

        As for Trump-grade evidence, got to go beyond CNN, MSNBC, and (yuk) the CBC. SCOTUS will be providing all you can eat in the week before 14 December. The real party starts 6 January. In a perfect world, settling of scores begins soon thereafter.

        (confirmation of writers identity: FY)

        • The Doctor says:

          That’s an anecdote. You have offered up no actual proof, backed up with any statistics, studies or data. Do you not understand the difference?

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Doc,

        Sidney Powell actually has a law degree. Imagine that.

  5. Steve Teller says:

    I’m certainly as happy as anyone that the Orange Menace is gone. However, I wouldn’t say that COVID is the primary reason. A contributor, perhaps, but his popularity numbers were already pretty weak before COVID.

    I would suggest that another contributing factor was what Trump supporters did during COVID. His rallies began to resemble something from 1930s-era Germany, and the comments from some of the attendees (on camera, for all to see) probably gave a lot of regular Americans pause. They didn’t want to be associated with those words or ways of thinking/acting.

    I’m quite glad these rallies occurred, because they offset the equally-reprehensible behaviour of those at many of the BLM protests (aka riots) across America. Those protests/riots had a similarly galvanizing effect on many regular Americans, and I suspect some would have held their nose and voted for Trump. Thank goodness his knuckle-dragging supporters balanced it out.

    • duojet says:

      Disagree. Trump got 70M votes and something like 48% of the popular vote.

      The Biden sweep that was predicted by the polls didn’t materialize, and the margin in a number of the swing states was pretty close.

      etc.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Duojet,

        They both got never seen before voter turnout. Last time I checked, Biden was still ahead by six million votes, so yes, no question, Trump went out of his way to fuck Trump. Absolutely no surprise there. It was way beyond predictable. That’s Trump for you. So in character, right to the bitter political end.

  6. Pedant says:

    I keep coming back to Warren’s blog hoping he’ll start talking about CANADIAN politics again.

    • Warren says:

      It’s not a blog. And I’ve been doing it for 20 years next month, and I’ve always written about what I want to.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Pedant,

      Who in his right mind would write about the reasonably dysfunctional Prime Minister when the scribe can turn to the insanely idiotic instead? It’s Trump hands down!

      And yeah, it’s a website.

  7. Phil Brunet says:

    “He made such a mess of his pandemic response”

    For now we’ll ignore the fact that it’s the states, not the Feds, who are the major health care players. Look up yourself how badly the Dem-conrolled states performed. You know, research? Facts?

    How about Cuomo’s “response”? Ordered nursing homes to take in covid patients. Sure geezers died, but whatever it takes to make Trump look bad, huh?

    Liberals. Human scum.

    • Steve Teller says:

      Dem-c0ntrolled state performance? Uh, have you looked at the Dakotas, Iowa, and other GOP states lately? North Dakota currently has the highest COVID death rate per capita in the entire world (look it up).

      Yes, New York and other states had it bad early. I would suggest that was due to (a) much higher population densities, and (b) the novel nature of COVID in the spring. Neither of those things are excuses the midwestern GOP states can make now.

  8. Thank God that mental health services are always there to help those in need.

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