The pandemic has cost the jobs of millions of people and forced the U.S. economic recession, and if current trends continue, they may decide the U.S. presidential election. How is this possible?
The COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered as the most significant event of the year 2020, both in the U.S. and around the world.
At the start of the pandemic, far-sighted individuals already expressed severe concern at how the pandemic might play out. But surely, it could not possibly be around long enough to affect the presidential elections, could it?
However, barely four months into the pandemic, experts already concluded that the epidemic might play not only a role but also determine the elections.
In May, the University of Miami Associate Professor of Political Science, Joseph Uscinski, admitted, “The biggest issues on everyone’s mind are the pandemic and the economy. How these two phenomena pan out will greatly affect the vote in November.”
Donald Trump has always staked his presidency to the performance of the U.S. economy. Also, the U.S. has always judged its leaders by how well they handle stressful situations.
With current reports indicating that the U.S. economy is floundering at its lowest levels ever recorded due to COVID-19, there’s plenty to suggest Trump might pay for it.
How did we get to this point? This article charts the pandemic’s effect on the U.S. economy and how it will likely impact the presidential election.
The U.S. economy before COVID-19
Before COVID-19, the stock market, and Donald Trump, were enjoying a good run of form. The stock market was at a record high, and unemployment rates were at a 50-year low.
Despite just being impeached by the House of Representatives, as of December 26, 2019, Donald Trump had only matched his best approval rating ever, with a 43% approval rating.
While things were far from rosy, especially considering the President could be removed for using his office for personal gain, Trump was in a strong position.
The President’s approval ratings amongst Republicans were 92%, equaling his highest ever, and amongst independents, he was polling 42% approval, his highest ever.
Some, however, argue the economy was already showing signs of severe problems at this point. They cite cash injections of over $6 trillion by the Federal Reserve into corporate hands in the five months before the first reported coronavirus case in the U.S. as a sign; something was wrong.
Whatever the case may have been at the time, it has become clear that after COVID-19 hit, the economy revealed itself, as many would argue, so was Trump. Remember, Trump did not win the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election.
The U.S. economy after the start of COVID-19
The U.S. reported its first COVID-19 case in Washington state on January 21, 2020. The next day, the President downplayed the risk, saying, “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s – going to be just fine.”
The President would continue this tone throughout January and then February, saying on February 27, that the virus will disappear “like a miracle.”
But this didn’t happen. The U.S. retroactively confirmed its first death from COVID-19 on February 6 and over 10,000 reported cases by February 26.
By March 11, the NBA shut down due to coronavirus, and the state of California soon followed suit, issuing the first lockdown order in the U.S. on March 19. By the end of the month, 30 more states had followed suit.
As expected by most experts, the lockdown fundamentally affected the economy.
Due to social distancing guidelines, most businesses required to close, and people told to stay at home. In one fell swoop, the vast majority of U.S. businesses had lost their daily business and revenue.
In the same vein, costs immediately rose for those allowed to stay open as essential businesses, while their revenue went the other way since they had less activity.
The strain on already struggling businesses proved too much. And, many of the companies went belly up between March and April.
Initial applications for unemployment benefits quickly began to pile up and have since reached more than 50 million. U.S. Census reports indicate that more than half of U.S. households have seen their income fall due to the pandemic.
The economy immediately felt the impact of these job losses as the National Bureau of Economic Research officially determined that the U.S. economy entered into recession in March. The stock market was also severely hit, falling to historically low levels on March 22.
Amidst the terrible effects of the coronavirus on American lives and livelihoods, the President found time to blame China, WHO, Biden and the Obama Administration for the mess; insist his administration has done a “very good job” as thousands died and recommend injecting bleach into people suffering from COVID-19.
The U.S. economy now
Despite a lull in new cases in May, the pandemic continues to ravage the U.S. and its economy. As of July 30, the U.S. economy reported having contracted 32.9% of its COVID-19 cases between April and June 2020, the worst fall in the country’s GDP in almost 73 years.
The Commerce Department revealed the bulk of the contractions occurred in April as economic activity in the U.S. almost ground to a halt.
However, the human toll makes for even more grim reading. From CDC statistics, the U.S. has recorded 5.37M cases of COVID-19 and more than 169,000 deaths. And these figures are climbing by the day.
Reports, such as this op-ed from the Washington Post, indicate that the prolonged onslaught of the pandemic on the U.S. has been primarily caused by “dysfunctional politics, a lack of funding for public health and a rush to reopen the economy.” The longer the pandemic rages on, the harder it becomes for businesses to function normally and for the economy to recover.
Unsurprisingly, the botched management of the pandemic is steadily eating into President Trump’s approval rating. According to a survey conducted by Huffington Post and YouGov, 46% of Americans say the U.S. is handling the coronavirus pandemic worse than other countries. Only 24% believe the country is managing the epidemic as well as other countries.
Trump’s approval ratings are taking a severe hit all round, and even in states that are considered critical to his reelection.
In Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, 50% of voters disapprove of Trump’s management of the crisis, while 45% say they approve. The President is now behind Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, in all four states warrants a heated presidential election.
As the Trump administration continues to falter in its coronavirus response, it is becoming increasingly clear that the elections might turn on this point, with D-day barely 80 days away.
Professor Uscinski puts it best when he says: “If the economy can improve and voters give Trump credit for it, he might be able to hang on. But, if record-high unemployment remains shortly before the election, Trump will likely lose. Also, how Trump handles the pandemic, in relation to how voters think Joe Biden would handle it, will affect the outcome as well.”
Make sure you register to vote at vote.gov. You can also check what is required before you arrive and your polling location. Voting in the General Election on November 3, 2010 is vital and will determine who wins the presidential election.