Donald Trump Was President In 2020
It's true, I assure you!
I touched on the theme of this post in our Thanksgiving mailbag, but decided to develop it at length here after I happened upon this tweet.
Byron is a replacement-level Republican Party propagandist, so it’s not unusual to see him caping for Donald Trump. But he’s also a fairly reliable barometer of Republican Party consensus, so I have no doubt many people on the right believe winning in 2024 will be as simple as repeating these assertions, in one form or another, over and over again.
Republicans will thus make an all-in wager that most voters will continue to tell survey takers the Biden economy is bad (it is booming) and will forget who was president in the year 2020.
The bet may very well pay off, but whether or not it does, I feel very strongly that Donald Trump was president in 2020, and it had a significant, lasting, negative impact on life in America.
To buttress my assertion that Donald Trump was president in 2020, I’d point you to the White House Historical Association, or various elementary school classroom walls, all of which will affirm that Donald J. Trump was president from 2017-2021, a span of time that includes the year 2020, as can be verified with basic counting.
What relevance does the trivial matter of “who ran the government in 2020” have to the 2024 campaign? Isn’t it a mere technicality? Elections are about the future, etc. etc. Unfortunately for Trump and his loyalists like Byron, assertions like “things were good when [I/Trump] was president” aren’t true unless they’re true for the entire presidency. It’s arguably more important that they accurately describe the later stages of a presidency, when a president’s policies have had time to bear fruit. And as it turns out, things were not great in 2020, Trump’s final year in the White House.
2020 was the year the novel coronavirus escaped China and began to spread in the western hemisphere. The Chinese government bears primary responsibility for failing to contain the outbreak or adequately warn the world of the risk that it could explode into a global pandemic. But other governments had important roles to play as well. They could have pressured China to be more transparent about the virus, or offered international assistance to contain and hopefully eradicate it; they could have warned their own publics that a highly contagious virus was likely to become epidemic, so that people could adequately prepare; they could’ve assisted in those preparations with emergency policy before whole swaths of society were stricken and paralyzed.
What Donald Trump did instead, as head of the U.S. government in 2020, was more or less the opposite. He praised Chinese Premier Xi Jinping in glowing terms, lied to the U.S. public about the COVID-19 risk, and geared policy toward reducing the appearance of risk so that the stock market would not collapse (though, of course, it did anyhow), because in Trump’s mind, a bear stock market meant electoral doom.
For instance, on January 24, Trump said “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!”
When CDC’s Nancy Messonnier warned the public in February 2020 about the likelihood of serious disruption to daily life, Trump had her muzzled, because, he told advisers, being candid with Americans about the looming danger risked “scaring the stock markets.”
As other countries made mass testing available, Trump sabotaged the early testing regime because, with fewer tests, the number of infections in the U.S. would appear artificially low. “I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump confessed.
The result was that the bottom fell out from under the U.S. economy and the U.S. experienced significantly more infection, disruption, and death than peer nations. We could have had zero mobile morgues and abundant toilet paper; instead we had the reverse. Stipulating, as we probably should, that the U.S. could not have helped eradicate COVID-19 in late 2019, even if Trump had taken a more skeptical view of Xi, it’s not a stretch to say that hundreds of thousands of Americans who should have lived are now dead because of Trump’s failures stateside.