Tuesday, 12 May 2020 13:35

COLUMN: 'Blame China' is a lame strategy

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Republicans have a number of talking points about the coronavirus and the economy, none of which will help them in November.

The first is, “Blame China.” The second is, “Trump is doing a great job.” The third is, “People will have to die to save the economy” with the caveat that it’s mainly old people with pre-existing conditions who are dying anyway. None of these messages addresses the most pressing concerns of voters about the coronavirus or the economy. 

The Republican response reminds me of the Democrats’ message strategy back in 2014. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic SuperPACs wanted to make the election about the Koch Brothers and their influence over politics. It was a dumb strategy because it wasn’t about voters, it was about politics. Most people don’t really care who funds campaigns, they don’t know who the Koch Brothers are and they certainly don’t believe that they control our government. Democrats offered no direct connection between the villains Reid and company created and the day-to-lives of most Americans. Instead, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money to complain about money in politics. 

Republicans are using a similar strategy in 2020. Instead of blaming somebody for buying elections, they are blaming China for causing the pandemic. At a time when voters are  asking what the government is going to do to protect them from the pandemic and the economic chaos it’s causing, Republicans are answering, “Blame China.” Like the Koch Brothers strategy, the Blame China strategy is a lame attempt to distract voters and create a villain for Republicans to run against. It won’t work.

Republicans are also rallying around Trump. The president failed to respond to the coming pandemic and told us that it was contained or that it was like the flu or that it would just miraculously go away. None of that came true. With more than 80,000 people dead and the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, Republican Senators are telling us what a great job Trump has done. Somebody should advise them to read “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Republicans should be running from Trump, not embracing him. 

Meanwhile, Trump is rage tweeting and says that the American people are warriors who must sacrifice themselves and their loved ones to re-open the country. The pro-life party is telling us we’ve got to let some Americans die to protect our economy. They point out that most of the dead had pre-existing conditions and many lived in nursing facilities. They treat the frontline health care providers who die as collateral damage and are trying to portray dying of coronavirus as a patriotic act. Consequently, support for the GOP among older voters is cratering.

Republicans didn’t prepare for a pandemic because conservatives convinced themselves that government can’t do anything right, despite tons of evidence to the contrary. Now, they’re on twitter telling us that Americans can protect themselves against the pandemic and they’re marching in the streets with heavy artillery to prove it. Nothing makes you more sympathetic to swing voters than threatening to violently overthrow the government if you don’t get your way.

As I’ve written before, most of voters are self-interested. They want to know what their political leaders can do for them. They aren’t asking where the virus came from or how it got to the United States. They’re asking, “What are you going to do to protect me and my family?” Republicans are answering “Blame China.” That’s the wrong answer but it’s the only one they’ve got.

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Mills spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant.