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Blaming China won't solve America's problems

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-09-24 09:47
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Politics v.s. public health

Does the Trump administration prioritize politics over public health amid the worst public health crisis in the US in a century? The answers depend on who you ask in the US

For President Trump as well as his opponent in the 2020 general election, this year will be the COVID-19 election. Like it or not, voters will almost certainly be asked to choose sides concerning how Trump performs during the pandemic: condemn or endorse his handling of the crisis.

Polls and surveys of social media in the past few weeks show that voters are mostly divided along party lines on how President Donald Trump handles coronavirus outbreak. Though his overall approval rating has ranged between 40% and 44% with some bumps since the onset of the US coronavirus crisis in early March, the support of his response among Republicans has been just as overwhelming as condemnation of his performance among Democrats. But recent polls suggest that confidence in the president to handle the outbreak has slipped among some crucial voting blocs in the general election, fueling Republican anxieties, according to the New York Times.

The White House and Republicans certainly do not want to take any responsibility for a sluggish response to the outbreak as clearly shown by the President's statements at his daily briefings. Amid rising discontent with his pandemic response as well as a record-breaking number of Americans filing for unemployment, Trump and his political strategists feel very comfortable with their familiar playbook of the 2016 campaign as he seeks a second term: blame the outsiders.

And for Democrats, they would put all the blame on Trump, highlighting how he initially downplayed the pandemic, and finger-pointing his subsequent stumbles. They would try to show voters that they could offer good governance.

According to Mr. Lee Drutman, a senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America, the COVID-19 blame game is going to get uglier. In his view, for both the Republicans and Democrats, there is a crude calculation: If Democrats can successfully associate the substantial harm wreaked by COVID-19 with Trump, they win in November. But if Trump and the Republicans can deflect enough blame elsewhere and Trump gets credit for making things less bad than they could have been, Trump will win.

Indeed, any year would have been a bad year for a pandemic. But a presidential election year in the US makes it even worse. A political battle leading to bigger and bitter polarization among Americans does not bode well for the pandemic battle. Among other things, a blame game ensues.

A Senseless Blame Game

For Trump and Republicans, the "outsiders" to blame include Democrats, the "mainstream media" or the "Fake News", even some of America's governors, as well as China and the WHO.

In the case of COVID-19, China is an easy target. President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Pompeo, some members of the US Congress and their supporters accuse China of covering up the epidemic, not sharing sufficient information sooner, and understating the number of cases. They claim, explicitly or implicitly, that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan. They even would like to make China accountable for US losses in the pandemic. President Trump accused WHO of being "China centric", and said he was halting funding to WHO and would begin a review WHO's "role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus."

These accusations and claims do not square with the facts.

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