In the space of a month, those who see the virus as a high threat to the USA have more than doubled, to 71% from 34%. The sense of a high threat to the global economy (to 76% from 47%) and to the stock market (to 68% from 47%) also spiked.The assessment that the coronavirus poses a high threat to “you personally” nearly doubled, to 29% from 15% in March. More than 6 in 10 are concerned that their hospital won’t have the resources needed to treat infected patients.
In addition, “By an overwhelming 3-1, 69%-21%, Americans endorse a nationwide lockdown through the end of April, requiring people to stay at home except for essential work. The idea is backed by solid majorities across partisan lines, by 8 in 10 Democrats and 62% of Republicans.” If we are going to err, the public would prefer it be on the side of keeping the country closed down too long.
Most important, if they are going to pay attention to elected officials, it is governors, not Trump, whom they will trust. “Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed express trust in their governors, an increase of 16 points since March. The view is bipartisan: 65% of Republicans, 81% of Democrats, 55% of independents,” the pollsters found. “Governors as a group are more highly trusted than the president by 25 percentage points, a difference that could be significant if there is a clash between statehouses and the White House about when parts of the nation can safely reopen.”
Trump’s aim over the past few weeks has been to shift both the blame and the responsibility going forward to the governors. (Logically, if he thinks the governors are to blame for lack of preparation, why would he demand we look to them for a plan to return to work? Logic is not the strong suit of Trump nor his enablers, certainly.) But the public wants the feds to take a more active role in addressing the crisis: “By 92% to 4% — close to unanimous — Americans want the federal government to make the COVID-19 test widely available.”
The pandemic understandably is stoking demand for more government intervention in the economy. “More than 8 in 10 support expanding paid sick leave so more workers would be eligible. Six in 10 support temporary financial help for airlines and other affected industries.”
None of this should come as a surprise. The Great Depression discredited Republican federal leadership for a generation and stoked demand for the alphabet soup (e.g. WPA, TVA, FHA, NRLA) initiatives of the New Deal, laying the groundwork for the modern welfare state. The Great Recession similarly cast Republicans into the wilderness in 2008, making way for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, bailout of the car companies and stimulus bill. Great domestic crises expose the fault lines in capitalism and bolster support for domestic interventions that go well beyond the causes of the original crisis. As former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel put it, “Never allow a good crisis go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do the things you once thought were impossible.”
Republicans’ hostility to government is now their downfall. Aversion to expertise, know-nothingism, cronyism and anti-regulatory fervor make Republicans particularly ill-suited to the demand for effective, energetic government. Even without an incompetent, unfit narcissist at the helm, why would voters embrace a party that has been telling us the “deep state” is the enemy and marginal tax rate cuts are the answer to every ill? That’s a little long for a bumper sticker for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. “Throw the bums out,” however, works nicely.