- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2020

Baseball games played to empty stands — and not just at Marlins Park. Airlines largely grounded. Restaurants empty — though Grubhub deliveries are booming as hungry people fear leaving their homes.

This is the summer that possibly awaits the U.S. should the coronavirus continue its seemingly inexorable march across the globe.

The novel coronavirus, known for pneumonialike symptoms, has quickly spread far beyond the wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan whence it sprung just a couple of months ago. Outbreaks have occurred everywhere from Italy to Iran to South Korea.

The World Health Organization is now warning of a potential global pandemic. It’s fanciful to imagine that the U.S. will somehow find itself immune to what could soon be a global scourge. Indeed, a country that for decades has largely given up on enforcing its southern border seems particularly helpless to stop the spread.

It appears likely that the reelection prospects of President Trump would swoon in the event of a major outbreak here. Not only would he be blamed — fairly, or not — for allowing the virus to enter the country, but the economic shock that would ensue would surely harm his prospects.



Mr. Trump also seems oddly disengaged from the crisis. By contrast, one can imagine a Citizen Trump, having been defeated by President Hillary Clinton, calling for an immediate shut-down of the U.S. border until “we can figure out what the hell is going on.”

A glance at what has happened in the countries that have suffered from coronavirus portends bad things. Dozens of Italian towns in the country’s north are on lockdown, and Venice canceled its famous carnival. The Tokyo marathon was drastically shrunk, and it’s questionable whether the Summer Olympics will occur there later this year.

China has taken the drastic measure of essentially shutting down its economy in hopes of stopping the spread. Even this will have significant effects on the U.S., as supply chains are disrupted. And if the virus makes it to the U.S. in earnest, the economic effects could be catastrophic. Consumer spending, which comprises some 70% of U.S. GDP, would surely collapse. (Except maybe for Amazon’s delivery business. Jeff Bezos always has the last laugh.)

What would make the political effects of a coronavirus odder still is that both Mr. Trump and his probable Democratic opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have based their political campaigns largely on mass rallies. A coronavirus outbreak would put paid to that strategy, as large-scale gatherings would be discouraged. The political conventions would be canceled, too.

One veteran campaign manager says this would serve to Mr. Trump’s benefit. In the event of a coronavirus outbreak that keeps candidates off the trail, “Advantage Trump because he has Twitter already, plus TV audience on command. Bernie is still a distant second to Trump on communication tactics,” he tells me. Mr. Sanders’ “Twitter account is actually kinda mediocre. Trump could livestream from the White House and get millions of people on appointment viewing.”

Consider it a “front porch campaign” for the YouTube age. And the facemask age.

⦁ Ethan Epstein is editorial editor of The Washington Times. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ethanepstiiiine.

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