Except when liberal internationalists and imperially minded neoconservatives wish to shame Americans by comparison (“Look what wonderful welfare and healthcare systems they have in Europe!,” and “We need to give those poor people a democratic government!”), or the United States is threatened directly from abroad (“The Russians are going to invade Europe after electing Trump President!;” “The Chinese are stealing our secrets!”) American politics takes place almost entirely in a national bubble, without reference to what is going on in the rest of the world, including that part of it that is most like America, Western Europe. The vast run of Americans have always been uninterested in, hence ignorant of, the rest of the world and the people who dwell there; a situation their politicians have done little to change, except in times of crisis. For the most part, the Democrats have benefitted most from this ignorance, in recent times at least, while the Republicans have failed to exploit it to their advantage, as they have done so far in the current presidential campaign to their huge dis-advantage.
Before Covid-19 struck, President Trump and the Republicans were counting on the poker-hot American economy that had developed over the course of the past three and a half years. But the pandemic, and the social and economic lockdown that resulted from it, caused the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, wiping out Trump’s (supposed) greatest accomplishment in office and replacing it with his greatest liability, his administration’s (imagined) mismanagement of the worst national health crisis since 1918-1919. The Democrats struck fast as greased lightning to exploit both, as they have been doing for five months now with great success. Ninety-five days out from Election Day, they are blaming Mr. Trump–and Mr. Trump alone–for the struggling economy and the deaths of 150,000 Americans from the coronavirus—charges the administration and the Republican Party seem incapable of rebutting, though they have only to point to what is happening on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to do so effectively.
Because it is a hard fact that the Western and Southern European democracies are faring no better this summer, economically or health-wise, than the United States is. Prime Minister Boris John of Great Britain, President Macron of France, and Prime Minister Sanchez of Spain have no better record in either category than President Trump, while Italy’s Prime Minister Serge Mattarella is doing far worse in both. Germany’s PM, Angela Merkel, is hardly more successful. Boris Johnson actually caught the disease, which nearly killed him and from which he is not yet fully recovered, and his new government not at all. The virus has reappeared (“spiked” is the media’s term) in all of these countries and elsewhere around the world, coincidentally with its flareup in the United States. Nor, as a direct result, have the various national economies, which are floundering at least as much as America’s. If it is unfair to blame Mssrs. John, Macron, et al. for both the virus and the recession (which hardly anyone in politics or even the media is doing), it is equally unfair to blame Donald Trump. The U.S. was not less prepared and equipped for the pandemic than any other country to contend with a virus that is both highly contagious and previously unknown (as it necessarily was, were it in fact engineered in a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan, as a former head of Britain’s MI-6 believes ). No personal blame, therefore, attaches to any politician currently in office anywhere— the members of the present government of China excepted.
Granted, it is not ideal to head into an election making excuses for oneself—“No one else was any better,” etc.—but in point of fact in the case of Donald Trump and his administration this is absolutely true. Besides, there are ways of handling the problem rhetorically when addressing one’s critics and opponents, no matter how violent and dishonest they may be, and the Democrats are both. Trump and his advisers should be able to devise such a means—it is not, as we say, rocket science after all. The first step is for the President and his men to look abroad for a change, state plainly what they see there over there, and challenge the Biden-Sanders-Harris-Warren-Abrahms team to explain how they would have acted more rapidly, responsibly, and effectively in this double-barreled crisis than Trump-Johnson-Macron-Sanchez-Conte & Company did.
Because it doesn’t just happen here. And of course, they know that.