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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Trump's grim trade-off, corona vs protests, and a boon for Kenya's fishermen

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Trump's grim trade-off, corona vs protests, and a boon for Kenya's fishermen

Trump wants the US "open" by Easter: US President Donald Trump today said he wants the coronavirus-related lockdowns lifted by mid-April, because he is concerned that the economic costs of these measures is too high. Trump's earlier caution that "the cure can't be worse than the problem itself" is a central principle of public health responses to pandemics, but most serious epidemiologists and public health experts say that easing the lockdown measures makes sense only once hospitals are fully prepared and there is sufficient testing to detect new outbreaks – neither of which is yet true in the US. The idea sets up a macabre calculation of how many lives are worth saving vs the economic impact of doing so, but it could also put governors on the spot: the lockdown measures have been imposed by states, not the federal government. Local authorities may be reluctant to relax the rules for fear of generating a fresh spike in cases. But if Trump is serious, he could also threaten to withhold federal aid from states that defy new, looser guidelines. Something nasty is coming, one way or another.


Coronavirus and protest politics: No matter how angry people may be at their governments, few are eager to gather in the streets to lift their voices against authority these days. We've seen lots of recent examples of how fear of coronavirus can undermine protests, while governments are also using new rules against public gatherings to disperse even the bravest of crowds. In India, for example, police have broken up a months-long peaceful protest against a new citizenship law and its prejudicial effect on the country's enormous Muslim minority. The easing of virus fears in China may soon revive long-running protests in Hong Kong. But some in Israel aren't waiting for news that the COVID coast is clear. In response to health regulations banning public gatherings, critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have staged a virtual rally of hundreds of thousands of people to accuse him of using the public health crisis to remain in power. How coronavirus changes the norms and avenue of political mobilization is going to be a big story in the coming months.

Kenyan fishermen's coronavirus boon: Kenyan fishermen have long lamented cheap frozen fish imports from China, which have strangled a local industry that supports thousands of people. But the coronavirus crisis has suddenly changed the picture as Chinese exports have slowed to a trickle amid that country's lockdowns, while Kenyans worried about contracting coronavirus began shunning fish from China anyway. As a result, Kenya's fishermen, who used to complain of having to barter or even give away their catch, are now celebrating as demand for Kenyan fish has surged 80 percent in the past two weeks. But there's a catch, so to speak. Experts warn that Kenyan supplies aren't enough to meet demand, and Kenya could soon face shortages if those Chinese imports don't resume.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream