Thomas Mills: Democrats should avoid blame game now

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 29, 2020

By Thomas Mills

This week, Gallup released polls showing President Donald Trump’s approval ratings improving by about five points. By a large margin, people approve of the way he’s handling the crisis.

Trump’s rating bump is fueled mainly by more independents and Democrats rallying to his side.

The response from Democrats was typical. They unleashed ads showing Trump misleading the public and blaming him for the nation being unprepared for the crisis. They’re following the rules of politics: keep his negatives high and positives low. I’m not sure the same rules apply, and I don’t think their timing is right.

People are scared right now. They don’t understand what exactly is happening with this virus and they want answers. They’re turning to the president because they don’t know where else to go. They crave information, but I suspect most of the change is with low-information voters who aren’t going to seek out updates from outlets that do more in-depth reporting. They’re going to get it from the easiest place possible—cable or the evening news. They see Trump flanked experts and, even if they don’t really like him, they want him to succeed.

We’re at the very beginning of the crisis. A lot of hospitals will get overwhelmed in the coming days and weeks. A lot of people will get sick. Many will die. It’s going to take a couple of months, at least, to get through the worst of it and, when we do, we might have to go through it again later.

Instead of attacking Trump, Democrats should be focusing on the leadership of Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo, of New York; Jay Inslee, of Washington; and N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper and offering information that helps Americans understand the pandemic itself. They should better help Americans understand what we’re trying to do by flattening the curve. Give them advice around social distancing and shoot straight with them about timelines.

There will be plenty of time to point fingers and assign blame. The ads that Democrats are running about Trump’s failures now will still be relevant in late summer and early fall. Right now, people don’t care as much about how we got here as they do about what’s going to happen next. Democrats would be wise to help them brace for the coming catastrophe instead of assigning blame for results that haven’t happened yet.

Trump’s approval ratings now are irrelevant to the campaign. They will fall as the seriousness of the crisis sets in. Now, they should be offering solutions, helping people understand the pandemic and reassuring them that we can get through this time.

Thomas Mills is founder of