COVID-19 Upends Political Landscape and Global Economy

We knew the Democratic primary campaign was going to be exciting and sure enough, it is. Bernie Sanders is now the front-runner and, despite all efforts by the establishment Democrats to derail his campaign, he crushed the competition in the Nevada primary and shows no sign of slowing down as Super Tuesday approaches with enough delegates for Sanders to be “unstoppable.”

But what has overshadowed all the political campaigns at the state and national level is the outbreak of coronavirus, the highly contagious virus that causes pneumonia-like symptoms, can be fatal, and is running rampant across the globe.

While the disease itself is serious, the effects from quarantines, lock-downs and avoidance of highly populated areas is significantly impacting both the domestic and global economy. Here in the U.S., the stock market has lost all gains from this year and continues to plunge as the outbreak, which could become a global pandemic, impacts vital global transportation and supply chains.

It’s estimated that 80% of what Walmart sells is made in China, for instance. Or the fact that a huge number of U.S. manufacturers use parts made in China. Chinese tourism has plummeted already, with predictions it may not recover for years.

In the meantime, we have Donald Trump, the guy who has told more than 16,000 lies in his time in office, as our so-called “leader” in this crisis. He’s already tried the usual ploy of blaming someone else for the problems — including saying the Democrats and media are in cahoots to crash the economy to prevent his re-election. And boy, those Democrats must have been really busy spreading the mischief Trump wants us to believe, since coronavirus now exists in 60 nations.

But don’t worry, germaphobe Trump has passed off responsibility for the most serious health and economic crisis in recent times to science-denier Mike Pence. Feeling better now? Assured that our future is in good hands? Or even that you’re going to get a shred of the truth?

The Centers for Disease Control says the spread of contagion is “inevitable” and the World Health Organization just raised the threat assessment to its highest level. Trump and Pence, meanwhile, continue to blather that it’s totally “under control” while research scientists say a vaccine is still a year away.

Of course, Trump is correct that the estimated $3.5 trillion that has been wiped away in the last week is going to significantly harm his chances of re-election. I mean, other than the booming economy he inherited from Barack Obama, what else does he have to crow about? Certainly not the trillions in new debt he added to the nation’s deficit with tax breaks for the already wealthy. And guess what, the billions he diverted to build his wall won’t keep out a virus.

Here in Montana the silence from our supposed or wannabe leaders is deafening. What are the state’s plans for when it shows up here — or even to find out if it’s already here? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Suddenly, when we really need leadership, we have a vacuum. Given that the virus shows no preference for Republicans or Democrats, one might think they’d put away the partisan knives to deal with the threat and show a little unity. But that, at least so far, is simply not happening.

In the meantime, Bernie Sanders’ plan for universal health care is starting to look a lot better about now. Since the entire purpose of government is to take care of the populace it’s up to we, the people, to chose leaders who are dedicated to do just that.


George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.