By Carlos Alberto Montaner
November is just around the corner. Who will “pay” in the electoral field for the projected 130,000 deaths, for the millions of unemployed and for the closure of thousands of companies caused by Covid-19?
I think President Donald Trump. He will be blamed, even if he is not responsible for the damn “Chinese virus.” It is known that voters, roughly speaking, vote with the memory of the previous period.
March 4, 1929 was a bright day. Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge’s Secretary of Commerce, assumed the presidency of the United States in the already first nation of the planet. He had defeated Democrat Al Smith, Governor of New York, by a landslide. He won 58% of the popular vote compared to 40% of the Democrats, and he won in 40 of the 48 states that the nation had back then. In his acceptance speech, he said that in the near future poverty would be abolished in the United States.
He had reasons to think so. Those years were the roaring twenties. A time of experimentation and debauchery. In the case of Hoover, as they usually say in Spain, “the State fitted in his head.” He knew what to do and how to do it. He was a geological engineer graduated from Stanford, endowed with the reformist instincts of the great bureaucrats. He even knew Chinese (Mandarin), a language he learned in the late nineteenth century as an adviser to the Asian emperor on mining issues. The nation had nearly a decade of sustained growth as a result of the post-war period, and he was a tireless organizer and an honest man.
But he couldn’t succeed. None of that worked for him. The country fell apart six months after taking office. In October 1929 the stock market crash occurred. That was the starting point of the Great Depression. There are a hundred explanations for that terrible episode. A bank run followed. Thousands of companies went bankrupt and unemployment gradually multiplied until it reached 25% of the workforce.
From that moment on, he did not know what to do. He tried Keynesian remedies, increasing public spending to increase demand. He was not successful.
He also experimented with the formulas of economic protectionism. In 1930, he signed the Smoot-Hawley Act, which imposed high taxes on imports of foreign agricultural products and manufactures. Nor did it work. It was counterproductive. It started an international tariff war. It was the cycle of the “skinny cows”, as the Bible says, and it is not easy at all to face those periods.
He was defeated in the 1932 elections. F.D. Roosevelt beat him by a “landslide.” There was an avalanche of votes in favor of the Democrats. The results of four years earlier were reversed. Democrats triumphed in 42 of the 48 states. They seized the House and the Senate. For twenty years they were in the presidency until, in 1952, Dwight Eisenhower, a competent and icy cabinet general who had been at the head of the American armies during World War II, won the election.
The two big parties tried to recruit him. The Republicans managed to seduce him. The message was simple: “Make peace in Korea. No bombing China, as General Douglas MacArthur had recommended. No more wars. Covert interventions in other countries, yes. But that’s what the CIA was created for.” Americans were mostly isolationists. Especially Republicans.
Even though elections are just around the corner, Joe Biden is 77 years old and should not be completely sure that Americans will inevitably vote against Trump. He is a formidable competitor who will do, say and “tweet” whatever it takes to get reelected. To some extent, it will depend on the vice president chosen by Biden. (He already promised it will be a woman). It will have to be someone who is ready to be president if Biden becomes disabled, dies in the White House, or does not aspire to a second term.
Fortunately, he can count on three exceptional women: Stacey Abrams, a Yale-graduated attorney, and successful novelist, who nearly won the governorship in Georgia, and Senators Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) and Kamala Harris (California), both also brilliant attorneys, and graduates of magnificent universities in Chicago and California. Stacey is black. Kamala is mixed. Amy is white. Biden has great options to choose from.Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is Sin ir más lejos (Memories), published by Debate, a label of Penguin-Random House.