So far, this election year reminds me most of 2006 on steroids. Back then, George Bush was in the middle of his second term. He had botched the response to Hurricane Katrina, Iraq was still raging years after Bush declared mission accomplished, and GOP Congressional scandals dominated what news space was left. Every time I thought it couldn’t get any worse for Republicans, it did.
This year, COVID-19 is Trump’s Katrina and Iraq all rolled into one. The country shutdown with the expectation that the administration would develop a plan to protect citizens and mitigate the impact of the disease. Instead, Trump used the pandemic as an excuse to turn daily briefings into mini-campaign rallies where he railed against his enemies and whined about his treatment in the press without ever showing any sympathy to the families and heath care workers who were suffering. No national strategy to tackle the disease ever emerged. Instead, Trump told states they were on their own.
Instead of taking on the administration and demanding action, elected Republicans started calling on governors to re-open shuttered businesses. They argue that the goal of the shutdown was to prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed while leaving out the part about building a national testing infrastructure. If they won’t contain the spread of COVID-19, at least maybe they can save the economy. The demand has put the GOP on the opposite side of most Americans who are more fearful of losing their lives than their jobs.
Now, the scandals are starting to break. After receiving intelligence briefings on the spread and impact of the coronavirus, North Carolina’s Senator Richard Burr and Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler both sold stock shortly before the market crashed. Burr claimed that he made the decision based on publicly available information, but on February 7, he wrote an op-ed for Fox News claiming the country was better prepared for pandemic than ever before. He clearly didn’t believe what he was telling the American people. Some people would call that lying.
Yesterday, Pro-publica reported that Burr’s brother-in-law also dumped stocks just before the market crashed. Gerald Fauth sold between $97,000 and $280,000 worth of shares on the same day Burr sold his. Of course, it’s just a coincidence. Burr denies ever discussing stocks with his brother-in-law who is also a Trump appointee to the National Mediation Board.
Back in 2006, as the bad news from the Katrina response lingered and the Abramoff scandal unfolded over the course of the year, Republicans’ electoral fortunes sank. The coup de grace broke in September before the election when Congressman Mark Foley was caught sexting under-aged Congressional pages and the GOP leadership admitted that they knew about the problem for months. (Then-Speaker Dennis Hastert later went to prison for sexually abusing wrestlers he was coaching.) Of course, we don’t know what the next few months holds but a suffering electorate might have less tolerance for the incompetence, petty graft, and nepotism than it did in a booming economy. without some change of fortune, enough has happened to sink the administration. A late summer scandal could prove disastrous for the GOP.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >