Opinion | Campaign

2020 on my mind: Democrats have to think like Mitch McConnell

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

For New Yorkers and millions of Americans, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has become something of a coronavirus god. His daily news briefings are a source of comfort in a decidedly frightening time. It shows in his approval rating - at more than 70 percent, the highest it's been in seven years, up from just 44 percent in February.

And while I take very seriously everything Cuomo says, and have done my best to follow all New York City guidelines, there's one aspect to his approach that I can't go along with. 

In a recent news conference, Cuomo said: "I'm not going to engage in politics. Not because I'm unwilling to tangle, but because I think it's inappropriate and I think it's counterproductive and I think it's anti-American. Forget the politics! We have a national crisis. We are at war."

That's a good strategy for Cuomo as he deals with this crisis, but for the rest of us, the politics cannot be forgotten. Politics may be crucial to how we ended up with such a grave crisis, and also may help us avoid ending up in this situation again.

I want to be perfectly clear: I am not blaming President Trump or Republicans for the coronavirus. I am, however, placing blame at the feet of leading figures - including the president - who did not treat this seriously enough, potentially profited off this travesty in at least two extreme cases, and continue to skirt the gravity of what we are facing.

Democrats must think like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who never spends a moment thinking about or making a decision that doesn't benefit Republicans. He's ruthless. He recently said that Trump ignored warnings about the coronavirus because of the impeachment trial! 

This crisis is an opportunity for Democrats to flex partisan muscle in keeping alive the narrative that there is only one party - the one that supports health care for all Americans - that is worthy of being in charge when we face something like this pandemic. 

Consider just a few instances of Republican malpractice.

The U.S. intelligence community issued several classified warnings in January and February about the spread of coronavirus throughout China and the CCP's efforts to downplay the threat. The system was "blinking red," as one analyst put it. While Trump's decision to ignore the threat is not out of line with his usual attitude toward the intelligence community, it does carry extra weight in this circumstance. 

In February, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requested $2 billion to buy respirator masks and other supplies for the national stockpile. What did Trump do? Cut that request by 75 percent. The masks and personal protection equipment shortage are a top concern of governors across the country. Pictures of health care workers wearing trash bags, bandanas and scarves litter the internet. It could have been avoided. 

Trump also has been playing favorites. In an interview with Bill Hemmer, Trump showed his ever-present transactional side. While discussing coordination with states, he remarked, "They have to treat us well, also. They can't say, 'Oh, gee, we should get this, we should get that.'"

What happened after that? New York asked for 30,000 ventilators and received 400. Even bipartisan Cuomo couldn't control his rage.

Trump also lashed out at Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, referring to her as the "woman governor" and told Vice President Pence not to call the "woman in Michigan." Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who refused to close Florida's beaches and now blames "snowbirds" for Florida's woes, has received more than he requested in assistance. At the same time, New Jersey, the blue state with the second-most cases behind New York, has gotten only a fraction of its request. Massachusetts has received 17 percent of its request and Colorado, 1 percent.

Then there are the sitting Republican senators who appear to have personally benefited from advance knowledge of the outbreak. Sens. Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler sold stock worth millions of dollars before the virus crippled the country. Loeffler reported purchased stock in a teleworking company and invested in a company that makes COVID-19 protective garments.

Even GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz gets it, recently tweeting: "Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton. Richard Burr shot the moral credibility of the Republican Party."

There is more that's relevant, including the GOP's emphasis on corporate bailouts over ordinary Americans, or that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday that he had only just learned that asymptomatic people can still spread coronavirus, which has been discussed since January.

As we fight for our lives, we must keep all this in mind. We must also remember that it was former vice president Joe Biden who penned an opinion piece on Jan. 27, entitled, "Trump is worst possible leader to deal with the coronavirus outbreak."

Guess there were some people who were thinking about it and did see it coming, despite what Trump says. The medical experts are clear that coronavirus will return once this outbreak wanes. We can't allow Trump to be in charge when it resurfaces. 

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.