Trump’s blame-avoidance is politically shrewd
Trump’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic is predictably chaotic, vengeful, irresponsible, and impulsive. His actions have worsened the epidemic, they have led to unnecessary deaths and to a very painful economic lockdown. Coming in the year before he is up for re-election, this seems self-defeating: if Trump could re-run history I have little doubt he would take aggressive action to nip the epidemic in the bud. That said, the political strategy that is emerging from his chaotic approach to emergency management is actually quite shrewd.
As President, Trump will naturally get credit if things go well. If the epidemic ends quickly and the economy roars back to life he can take a victory lap even if his actions make this outcome less likely. Trump understands this: what he is worried about is being blamed if things go badly.
It might seem that the need to avoid blame would give him an incentive to competently manage the crisis – to coordinate the distribution of ventilators and personal protective equipment, for example, but he is not even trying to do this. (Exhibit A: putting Jared in charge.) The reason is that he understands that any effort to actively manage the epidemic will make him the target of criticism for problems even if his actions actually make problems less likely or severe. If he takes responsibility for distributing masks or ventilators, then every time a shipment gets lost in an airport, every time a patient dies for lack of a ventilator or a health care worker gets sick with Covid-19, critics will ask why he didn’t do more to prevent it. His strategy is to simply deny that he is in charge, and to place as much blame as he can on governors and states. Or at least to lay the groundwork for doing this if things go south.
When it comes to managing the economic damage his strategy is to advocate – irresponsibly – for an early end to the social distancing and a quick resumption of normal economic activity. My prediction is that he won’t actually push very hard for this, because if there is an early end to social distancing and it goes badly he would be on the hook for it. So he will be happy leaving this decision to governors. He is setting himself up to blame others if the economic slowdown continues and becomes a political liability.
There is no guarantee that his blame-avoidance strategies will work, but Trump is playing a bad hand skillfully.
An interesting question is whether Trump is pursuing this blame-avoidance strategy intentionally, or if it is just a happy (for him) side-effect of his managerial incompetence and his intense personal desire to avoid criticism. My guess is that it’s a bit of both. He is a talented and experienced grifter, with an intuitive understanding of how to play an audience. His impulsiveness and his thin skin may sometimes lead him to act in self-defeating ways, but he has a natural understanding of the politics of credit-claiming and blame-avoidance, and right now that ability is standing him (not the world) in good stead.
Well, he will likely go the the way of Boris Johnson.
I think we can watch Dr. Fauchi, in real time, as Peter Navarro works his magic and how Trump has intervened as reporters ask medical questions. He is being set up to be blamed and removed no matter how reality proceeds .
I don’t think he is shrewd at all. I just think he is an inveterate liar, unable to deal with the truth at any level. The reason it works is because of Fox News.
Without that sounding board (and the imbeciles that watch it), he would have no chance to win any election for any position.
Goes to show how 50 years of the Southern Strategy combined with the GOP’s personal propaganda agency has turned our governments (state and federal) into total clusterfucks.
I don’t think it matters. The people that think Trump is a idiot have further reason to believe that and the ones that worship him don’t care about reality. It’s basically status quo.
Trump is an Authoritarian, and his followers are Authoritarian followers.
I’d like to think that we are headed towards a Star Trek universe, where all races are welcomed into the Federation and money doesn’t exist. Non-interference would be the rule and liberal democracy would be the law of the land.
However, evolutionary psychologists are discovering that between 30% and 40% of the human race favor Authoritarian regimes. Coincidentally, that is exactly the percentage of people who support Trump, no matter what he does.
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” – D. Trump.
“Democracy is most secure, and tolerance is maximized, when we design systems to accommodate how people actually are. Because some people will never live comfortably in a modern liberal democracy.” – Karen Stenner, The Authoritarian Dynamic.
I don’t think there is anything Shrewd about it. Trump is just being Trump. It’s all he know. It is the way his mind is wired. Totally defensive even though it looks like he is offensive in action.
Not really. That one quote on tape, “No I don’t accept responsibility for anything” will be played endlessly and will be contrasted to every great President in the history of the Republic. Right now it seems like one small episode among a million. In retrospect it will be remembered as the moment when he lost the election.
Yesterday he actually said it was not the Federal government’s job to conduct testing. And all those medical professionals decrying the lack of protective equipment. Trump accused them of playing partisan politics. Beyond dumb. Beyond disgusting.
I read history. Apparently Herbert Hoover was quite a good propagandist and way smarter than Trump and it did not help him in 1932 or the GOP. I have also seen polls that suggest his” rally round the flag” bump is fading. The 40% of dead enders will stick with him—to the extent they don’t die—and there are a variety of reasons why the way back for the economy is going to take years not months—a lot of zombie companies out there kept alive by low interest rates and it will take a decade for the hospitality industry to recover. I may never eat a fast food restaurant again. The real issue is whether the GOP and the courts will let fair elections take place and how much Trump and the GOP can steal before then.
Terry, why would you not eat fast food ever again? Fast food places generally get better marks for hygiene protocols than other types of restaurants. They usually have much clearer responsibilities and training than many individual operations do. The distributions of compliance to requirements would overlap, but not going to McDonald’s but going to Don Pelayo’s “authentic” Spanish restaurant is not the smart money bet here.
Very entertaining thread this AM, but interesting times are still a curse. Remaining alive is the real trick now. There are way too many ways for things to go wrong to venture a guess.