By Carlos Alberto Montaner
I don’t have the slightest idea on how the pandemic of a century ago influenced the 1920 elections. More than half a million Americans died while the country had a third of the population that the census shows today. Face masks and “social distancing” were almost the only medicine available. It had been that way since the Middle Ages.
Something happened and the Democrats lost overwhelmingly the White House, despite having contributed decisively to victory in World War I. Republican Warren G. Harding was favored by the largest proportion of votes in the history of the presidential confrontations between Republicans and Democrats: he won by 26% of the vote. It was a beating. A “landslide.”
If the elections were today, and not in a hundred days, Joe Biden would win. All the polls say it, including those of Fox Network. Why? Because Donald Trump (or any other president) could face the devastation left by the virus in the United States: millions of unemployed workers, thousands of companies closed, tens of thousands of deaths and, when the dust settles, a certain future inflation, as long as the money printing machine does not stop.
Of course, it is not possible to blame Trump for the consequences of Covid-19, but he will pay a price at the polls for his indecisions and inaccuracies. He started by downplaying the virus and refusing to put on a face mask, and ended up admitting the lethal danger of the disease and wearing the mask, as any more or less reasonable individual would do. It was not a matter of courage but of responsibility. Trump has not been responsible. That’s what the surveys reveal.
Nor can one choose with impunity between contagion and work. Any selection carries a penalty. If you work, the risk of acquiring the disease and the possibility of dying increase exponentially. If you don’t work, the economy stalls or slows down. If the government subsidizes companies and the employees that choose not to work, an inflationary process ensues. Doomed if you do and doomed if you don’t.
It is useless to try to face the desolate national scene accusing Biden of suffering from senility, or repeating again and again that the Russians stole the 2016 election or that the FBI spied on Trump. Most voters will not be guided by the thirteen categories selected by Professor Allan J. Lichtman in order to predict the winner of the November 3 election. That was the campaign until early April, when the professor, a serious specialist who is usually right in his predictions, said that Trump would win.
Biden wins even in the dubious states where Trump was victorious in 2016 by 77,000 votes spread across four key states. Venezuelan exile Joaquín Chaffardet, a diligent lawyer, has prepared statistical tables according to the most reliable pollsters that reveal what happens on July 19 in the thirteen states that became “swing states”: North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Texas and Georgia.
Biden wins in all of them. Amazing. Even in Texas and Georgia. From the 20 points of advantage he has in Pennsylvania, to the fraction of a point with which he would win in Texas, all is good news for Biden, including, I repeat, the Fox polls.
Naturally, the election is a hundred days away and in that period, everything can go wrong for the Democrats. How could Trump recover in the polls and defeat Biden? He would succeed if the protests that arose after the second-degree murder of George Floyd, the African-American man suffocated by a police officer in Minneapolis before the unappealable camera of a passer-by, keep going and if Donald Trump manages to convince the majority of his compatriots that he is the only leader with the required energy and charisma to stop the madness and the turmoil that are seen throughout the country.
What cannot be admitted is that he disqualifies U.S. democracy, ignoring the electoral results, invoking a fraud that only exists in his imagination full of convenient bizarre conspiracies. (I suppose that the Republican establishment of Bush and Romney is getting ready for this scenario, with the regret of granting the party franchise to Trump after his overwhelming victory in the primaries.)
In the end, he will always have the melancholic excuse of the Spanish monarch Felipe II to explain his failure regarding the disaster of the “Spanish Armada,” sent to invade Great Britain in 1588, but dispersed or sunk by a storm on the English Channel: “I sent my ships to fight against men, not against the elements.” Trump intended to beat the Democratic nominee, not the damn coronavirus.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.