Whom Do You Trust during a Major Public-Health Crisis?

Sen. Bernie Sanders with supporters in Columbia, S.C., February 28, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Coronavirus looks pretty serious. The government of Hokkaido, Japan, the second-largest island of Japan, just declared a state of emergency and told all 5 million residents to stay indoors. Health researchers think Iran is drastically underestimating the number of cases in the country — by anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 cases. Airlines are starting to suspend flights to places like Italy and South Korea.

I concur with Michael Brendan Doherty’s assessment that the Trump administration’s response is, so far, not entirely reassuring. The markets aren’t going to be reassured by advice to “buy the dip” or talk of tax cuts, and investors are not going to feel confident when the White House chief of staff tells them to turn off their televisions. Investors and non-investors alike are going to be reassured when they feel Americans can go about their regular daily life without fear of catching the virus.

The prospect of a tanking stock market and genuine public anxiety about a virus might have Democrats feeling better about their chances in the presidential election in November. Big problems usually generate sentiment against the incumbent.

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Then again, if it feels like the country is in a really dangerous spot . . . how much do Americans want to entrust everything to Bernie Sanders? Does a public-health crisis make Americans say, “Hey, let’s have a socialist revolution on top of all this?” Sanders believed, into his late forties, that cancer had psychosomatic aspects. Does he seem like the guy you want in charge during a pandemic or some other major public-health crisis?

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