By emphasizing China’s coronavirus connection, Trump hurts Biden and splits Democrats.
Each day makes China’s culpability for coronavirus clearer; simultaneously, Trump’s political advantage for highlighting this grows. By underscoring China’s responsibility, Trump pins Biden with his worst campaign gaffe, while forcing Democrats to either be tough on Biden or soft on Beijing.
America already broadly disliked China before coronavirus. Its trade policies beggared the U.S. through IP theft, dumping, and favoritism at home. Its anti-democratic policies and suppression of minorities were politically and morally repugnant. Its aggressive foreign policy made it a military threat.
Coronavirus now takes America’s view of China to depths unseen in decades. The question is not about China’s culpability, but about its extent.
Already more than justified in calling China out, President Trump has held back only in deference to his signature trade victory there. But his domestic political advantage now increasingly outweighs his former hesitance.
There is no good outcome for Biden here. He has no choice but to join in condemning China. That means he must explain last year’s faux pas, and Biden explaining anything is a recipe for disaster.
Trump attacking China also forces Democrats into Biden’s dilemma. They either must contradict public opinion or their nominee. Again, the answer is a no-brainer, but for Democrats it is also no-win. Adding insult to injury, taking the obvious anti-China route also means siding with Trump.
Further splitting an already divided party only benefits Trump and Republicans. This split also falls on their most sensitive fault line running between their ascendant left and dwindling moderate wings.
J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget.
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