On April 14, 2020, news media revealed that farmers were destroying crops, and dairy farmers were dumping milk because they were unable to deliver their products to the markets. Grocery stores could not be resupplied. A pork processing plant in South Dakota was shut down because a large number of its workers tested positive for coronavirus. The prospect of a food shortage in America became a reality. Twenty-six million unemployed and their families overwhelmed food pantries.
President Trump expected the economic recovery to start by Easter. He signed a $2.3 trillion economic relief package to alleviate the plight of the furloughed millions. But the prematurely expected economic resurgence did not happen, and relief checks have been selectively denied to U.S. citizens with immigrant spouses.
There is much ado and self-serving grandstanding by the President about the urgency to reopen America. But it is not about the restart of the economy. Nor is it a revelation of Trump’s newfound compassion for the dying. It is not empathy for the suffering jobless.
It’s re-election fever.
Opportunistically during this period of social-distancing, Trump uses the White House Daily Task Force briefings as substitutes for political rallies. In effect, he has left the Democrats in home confinement, virtually voiceless, while he angrily lashes out against the press and the governors of the opposition party who press him for support and supplies in the fight against the pandemic.
President Trump posted the inflammatory tweets, “Liberate Virginia,” “Liberate Michigan,” “Liberate Minnesota.” He urged his supporters to engage in “civil disobedience” to show their support for a rush to reopen the country and the economy. A quick economic resurgence is a must for his re-election, but large gatherings and protest marches are against the President’s own orders to stay sheltered.
In mid-April, several marches were staged by assault-rifle-brandishing demonstrators. They protested what they perceived to be an infringement of their constitutional rights by in-home sheltering. The emotional rallies were ill-timed and misguided. They sabotaged efforts to save lives.
The spring protest marches are forerunners of probable civil unrest later in the summer. The hungry, the desperate unemployed, and pandemic-ravaged minorities are likely to protest their plight. In fervent demonstrations, there is a likelihood of clashes between the liberal progressives and Trump-supporting right-wingers.
The virus pandemic validates a necessity for an improved health-care system. Proponents of “Health Care for All” are justified to press their cause.
The agony of pandemic-inflicted mortality, the misery of economic woes, and political grudges are elements for a hot summer. Both parties are making the election a referendum about Trump. Both parties are hoping for a landslide victory. But the outcome may be uncomfortably close.
The “Blue Tsunami” did not materialize in the midterm election as hoped. The electorate is as divided as ever. Although unemployed and disgruntled, blue-collared Johnny Redneck will still vote for Trump. The Trump campaign will attempt to exploit the Electoral College, just as it did in 2016.
Fred Natkevi is a longtime resident of Oak Park.