Send any friend a story
As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.
By Ross Douthat
In 2016 Donald Trump ran for president against his fellow Republicans and then against Hillary Clinton by promising economic nationalism: a break with the bipartisan enthusiasm for globalization, an end to outsourcing, a manufacturing revival, new infrastructure spending, frank competition with China instead of friendly integration.
Seven years later, President Biden just gave a State of the Union speech whose key themes and most enthusiastic riffs could have been lifted — albeit with more Bidenisms and fewer insults — from Trump’s populist campaign.
There was an implicit condemnation of both parties for their neglect of the heartland and industrial policy and infrastructure. There was a lament for the forgotten man, the Americans “left behind or treated like they’re invisible” and “the jobs that went away.” And there was a none-too-subtle subtext in the policy boasts: What Trump once promised, I’m delivering. A bipartisan infrastructure bill. Tougher buy-American rules. Reindustrialization. Taking on Big Pharma. Big investments in technological competition with Beijing.
Questions about the pandemic
When will the pandemic end? We asked three experts — two immunologists and an epidemiologist — to weigh in on this and some of the hundreds of other questions we’ve gathered from readers recently, including how to make sense of booster and test timing, recommendations for children, whether getting covid is just inevitable and other pressing queries.
How concerning are things like long covid and reinfections? That’s a difficult question to answer definitely, writes the Opinion columnist Zeynep Tufekci, because of the lack of adequate research and support for sufferers, as well as confusion about what the condition even is. She has suggestions for how to approach the problem. Regarding another ongoing Covid danger, that of reinfections, a virologist sets the record straight: “There has yet to be a variant that negates the benefits of vaccines.”
How will the virus continue to change? As a group of scientists who study viruses explains, “There’s no reason, at least biologically, that the virus won’t continue to evolve.” From a different angle, the science writer David Quammen surveys some of the highly effective tools and techniques that are now available for studying Covid and other viruses, but notes that such knowledge alone won’t blunt the danger.
What could endemic Covid look like? David Wallace Wells writes that by one estimate, 100,000 Americans could die each year from the coronavirus. Stopping that will require a creative effort to increase and sustain high levels of vaccination. The immunobiologist Akiko Iwasaki writes that new vaccines, particular those delivered through the nose, may be part of the answer.
All of this was wrapped together with the most familiar of Democratic themes: Tax only the rich, don’t ever touch Social Security and Medicare, spend infinitely on education. Meanwhile, Roe v. Wade and the supposed crisis of democracy, so central to the Democrats’ midterm campaigns, were invoked as partisan rallying cries but mostly pushed deep into the speech, long after the president was finished with his main pitch — an argument for a new economic nationalism, brought to you by Blue Collar Joe Biden.
It’s a message whose potency Republicans underestimate at their peril — especially those Republicans intent on playing into Biden’s hands by reviving the worst ideas and strategies of the Tea Party era. Combine this kind of message and that kind of G.O.P. folly with the hoped-for economic soft landing of continued job growth and diminished inflation, and you can see the path to Biden’s re-election.
But the speech also included plenty of reminders of all the forces that can’t be mastered by infrastructure spending, China bashing and clever appropriations of Trump’s 2016 themes.
There’s the pain of the inflation rate, which is diminishing but still outstripping wage growth and for which there is no real Biden policy solution except hope that the trend line continues down. There’s the war in Ukraine, where the perils of escalation would still unravel the provisional successes of our policy. There are zones of concern or crisis like crime and the border, where the Trump imitation ends and the demands of Biden’s base make it hard for him to fully wrestle with the problems. And there’s the general spirit of malaise and bad feeling, the hangover from Covid and the shadow of drug addiction and atomized despair, that neither party can really answer — but that leaves progressivism with its faith in constant social progress particularly tongue-tied.
Finally, there’s the problem of Biden himself — coming off a better-than-expected midterm result, with decent economic news to boast about and yet still facing a landscape where a majority of his fellow Democrats don’t want him to run for re-election. Did he reassure some of those voters with his cheerful sparring, his gameness for answering G.O.P. heckles? Or did he confirm their doubts with the way his ad-libs wandered and his longer teleprompter sentences slurred together?
In terms of this speech, this performance, I’d bet more on reassurance. But the campaign trail requires a lot of performances, and our oldest-ever president’s quest for four more years has a long, long way to go.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].
Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTOpinion) and Instagram.
Site Information Navigation
Source: Read Full Article