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Trump's 2020 play: blame China and the governors

Trump's 2020 play: blame China and the governors

A public health emergency with no end in sight and free-falling economy aren't ideal conditions for a leader to win re-election..

So, what's President Trump's sales pitch going to be? It's a long way from here to November, and it's hard to know what the 2020 "corona-campaigns" will look like. But over the past several days, two aspects of Trump's re-election strategy have become clear.

First, blame China for coronavirus. After all, Beijing hid information about the earliest coronavirus outbreaks, making it harder for the rest of the world to see what was coming. (In fairness, China's draconian lockdowns later bought the rest of the world more time to prepare.)


GOP leaders and conservative media outlets are now hammering China, framing the pandemic as the latest, clearest example of the existential threat that China poses to the USA. Trump's campaign, meanwhile, is painting Joe Biden, his election opponent, as an establishment politician who's been soft on Beijing for decades. Check the #BeijingBiden hashtag. For his part, Biden shot back with an ad framing Trump as too soft on China.

Here's the problem with this...For one thing, a rhetorical assault on China could jeopardize the fragile trade progress that Trump and Xi Jinping made last fall. It's one thing to wage a trade war on China when unemployment is at a half-century low of 3.5 percent. It's quite another when that figure could soon be six times as high. In fact, the administration has already begun suspending or deferring tariffs on Chinese goods, recognizing the hardships they pose for American firms in a time of coronavirus-induced economic distress.

What's more, America's hospitals need China's help to fight the virus: the US is still heavily dependent on Chinese-made medical equipment to properly equip frontline healthcare workers battling the disease.

So, Trump must tread carefully, which is one reason why his statements on China range from overt criticism (both on and off the record) to solidarity with China's President Xi Jinping.

The second pillar of his strategy is to play the role of "Grand Re-opener in Chief." He'll leave local authorities to sweat the details of how to balance public health with economic well-being, while urging governors to "reopen" and inciting insurrection against (Democratic) ones that don't. With more than 20 million Americans freshly out of work, Trump is looking to exploit understandable economic frustrations.

Here's the problem with that...Re-opening the economy too soon could re-inflame the public health crisis and, as a result, force a new economic lockdown. In that scenario, Trump would face epidemiological, economic, and political disasters all at once.

Ironically, the best situation for Trump politically is one in which ongoing lockdowns continue. They can keep the virus in check while allowing him to blame the economic damage on governors all summer. But with governors from his own party in key electoral states like Texas and Florida already moving to re-open earlier than public health experts advise, Trump could still find himself responsible for some very frightening results.

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As more countries pledge to curb emissions to mitigate climate change, nuclear could serve as a clean(ish) and reliable source of energy. But investing more in nuclear comes with tradeoffs.

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This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the czar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week, life looking better every day in the United States, coronavirus land. But I thought I'd talk about, this week, all of this cancel culture that everyone's talking about right now. If you're on the wrong political side, your opponents are trying to shut you down and you take massive umbrage. I see this everywhere, and it's starting to annoy.

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"Apocalyptic" protests in Senegal: At least five people have been killed in clashes with police as protests over poverty, unemployment, and the jailing of a popular politician rock the West African nation of Senegal. Ousmane Sonko, who heads the opposition Movement to Defend Democracy (M2D) and is considered the most viable challenger to current president Mackie Sall, was accused of rape in February and arrested last week. Sonko says the charges are a politically motivated attempt to remove him from politics before the 2024 presidential election. His supporters immediately hit the streets, voicing a range of grievances including joblessness and poverty. Though youth unemployment has fallen over the past decade, it still exceeds eight percent and close to two-thirds of the country's 16 million people are under the age of 25. As Sonko supporters pledge to continue protests this week, Senegal's head of conflict resolution says the country is "on the verge of apocalypse."

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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