Will the Coronavirus Economy Hurt Dems' Chances in November?

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Given the wide array of problems our country is facing, it is still unclear what issue will be top of mind for voters when they head to the polls in November. While many assume the coronavirus, which shows no signs of slowing, will be front and center, others argue that the economy will be the top priority, with potentially record levels unemployment and dwindling job opportunities stemming from pandemic-related closures.  

Many of those in my party claim Republicans' handling of the health crisis should be their downfall in the 2020 election. But my fellow Democrats cannot strictly rely on this narrative alone to win in the fall, particularly if we do not see an economic recovery, which the majority of Americans are worried about. 

To win in November, Democrats need to speak to the economic fears of the American people, because the recession has impacted every community, from big cities to rural areas. Job losses have led some to worry about how they are going to pay their rent and feed their families. And while concerns regarding the coronavirus itself are still valid and important, it's hard to imagine that concern outweighing food and housing insecurities.  

Unfortunately, Democrats seem more focused on throwing stones at Trump than promoting real solutions that help get Americans back to work. Democrats in Congress have been spending their time in D.C. passing messaging bills that could effectively help create much-needed jobs, but they are passing these bills knowing that they have no chance in the Senate and therefore won't become law and provide relief to American families. And other prominent Democrats on the state and local level have made decisions that put their economies at risk.  

In Washington state, for example, it was recently reported that the state is facing a projected $8.8 billion budget shortfall through 2023. Gov. Jay Inslee, a former Democratic presidential candidate, and state Democrats are now looking to cover the cost with additional taxes, which will burden businesses at the exact wrong time, since most are still trying to recover from the pandemic-induced shutdown. Burdening job creators at a time when they are barely hanging on could cause businesses to close their doors for good, adding to the already crippling unemployment crisis.  

In Los Angeles, under the leadership of Mayor Eric Garcetti (pictured), who earlier this year was considered a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, 20.3% of Angelenos are unemployed on the heels of the shutdown due to the virus. This means the city has a higher unemployment rate than California (at 15.5%) and the rest of the country. While this economic hit that Los Angeles has taken is understandable, what is rightfully being questioned is the fact that the current job loss and economic devastation in L.A. have not been equally felt, with the negative impact being acutely suffered in areas with “higher concentrations of African American and Latino families, immigrants, low-income renters and single-parent households,” according to the city controller. 

While Democrats are right to be concerned about the virus and put in place reasonable safety precautions, these precautions should not disproportionately negatively affect already disenfranchised communities. Unfortunately, this seems to be the impact of Mayor Garcetti’s policies.  

If Democrats want to win in November, we must support policies that will help all Americans get back to work and show a record of success on kitchen table economic issues.  

Even amid the pandemic and economic recession, a June Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed voters still preferred Trump’s handling of the economy, while former Vice President Joe Biden earned support on nearly every other issue the poll measured. Democrats would be unwise to ignore the importance of the economy going into the 2020 election, and prominent Democrats -- from Biden to local leaders -- need to put job creation and the economic recovery at the top of their agenda. 

Savannah Shoemake is a Democratic activist who served as a youth campaign coordinator for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

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