Trump's dilemma: The economy vs. the people
Andrew Korybko
The White House says it has canceled this year's Easter Egg Roll amid the spread of coronavirus across the country, Washington D.C., the U.S., March 16, 2020. /Xinhua

The White House says it has canceled this year's Easter Egg Roll amid the spread of coronavirus across the country, Washington D.C., the U.S., March 16, 2020. /Xinhua

Editor's note: Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

U.S. President Trump is on the horns of a dilemma as he is forced to choose between helping the economy by easing his country's quarantine measures or protecting the people from COVID-19. The American leader floated his ambitious proposal to practically reopen the country in time for Easter, both because of its important religious symbolism and due to his stated belief that the U.S. wasn't built to be shut down, but his plans are receiving hefty pushback by those who think that they irresponsibly endanger the people.

It's true that the American economy is being crushed in spite of the unprecedented two trillion U.S. dollars stimulus, which is in turn contributing to the global economy's lack of any considerable recovery since its collapse earlier this month following the West's uncoordinated containment policies against COVID-19, but some health experts also fear that the U.S. might become ground zero for the next major viral outbreak. Trump will therefore have to consider the pros and cons of both options, be it reopening the U.S. economy or continuing the quarantine.

The argument in favor of easing the quarantine so that Americans can get back to work is that some experts believe that the vast majority of COVID-19 victims will only experience mild systems, especially if they're anyone other than the elderly and don't have any preexisting symptoms. On the other hand, those who support continuing or even strengthening the quarantine measures point out how the infected can still spread the disease despite being asymptomatic, which puts the aforementioned vulnerable categories at risk. It's because of the convincing arguments on both sides that Trump said that he'll wait before making his final decision.

His ultimate choice, however, will likely be influenced by several factors, first and foremost among them his re-election prospects. The Trump campaign is frantically checking the American pulse to see if voters care more about the economy or their loved ones' safety. The President knows that he can't afford to go against the will of the majority if he hopes to win another term, so the proverbial "people's voice" might weigh heavily on his mind as he decides upon his course of action.

People wait in line to exit from a Costco store in New York, the United States, March 14, 2020. /Xinhua

People wait in line to exit from a Costco store in New York, the United States, March 14, 2020. /Xinhua

Another factor, however, is that a disproportionately influential component of his base are Evangelical Christians who might want to attend Easter services in person instead of doing so virtually over the internet. If Trump risks their ire by keeping the country closed out of an abundance of caution, they might not be as enthusiastic about his re-election, which could potentially cost his campaign countless dollars in forthcoming contributions to its war chest from wealthy believers who might be terribly offended at what he did. 

Still, the majority of Americans who don't identify with Evangelical Christianity might understandably feel alarmed if their devout Christian President puts their lives in danger in order to appease this powerful interest group. The Democrats, always eager to exploit everything that they can in order to stir up anger against Trump, could predictably take advantage of this sentiment in order to portray the President as a radical Christian extremist, which might reverberate far and wide with those who are already upset at him as it is.

Anticipating this, Trump might very well decide to keep the quarantine measures in place beyond Easter Sunday, but gradually lessen them in various areas of the country that aren't experiencing as severe of an outbreak at the moment. Regardless of whichever of the two options he ultimately decides upon, Trump will have to take full ownership of his choice and its eventual consequences, especially if reopening the economy backfires by infecting more people or the continued quarantine worsens the economy even more.

It's for this reason why Trump is leading from the front by holding daily press conferences in order to reassure the American people that he's taking this as seriously as possible. He knows that he's facing the greatest dilemma of his life -- and potentially in American history -- so he absolutely must exert bold leadership and give off the impression that he's completely confident in his decisions. Time will tell what he eventually decides to do, and further time will show whether it was the right choice or not.

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