Until COVID-19 hit, President Donald Trump was on a glide path to reelection.
On domestic policy, Trump's tax and regulatory cuts spurred the economy to heights unseen in 50 years; his Department of Education cracked down on the star-chamber courts applied on college campuses in cases of alleged sexual misconduct; he has appointed scores of well-qualified constitutionalist judges, including three Supreme Court justices. On foreign policy, Trump is the first president of my lifetime not to enter any foreign wars; he has brokered historic peace deals in the Middle East between Israel and Arab countries; he has stood up to Chinese predations in unprecedented ways.
If this election had been held in February, Trump likely would have won. And he likely would have won rather easily. That's because Trump's often-terrible rhetoric would have taken a back seat to his actions, and Americans' pessimism about Trump's character would have taken a back seat to their optimism about his agenda.
Then COVID hit.
The economy, thanks in large part to overwrought lockdown policies, collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died. And Trump's rhetoric blunders took on renewed seriousness as Americans looked for steady leadership and instead found the usual Trumpian stew of bloviation and exaggeration and ire.
COVID has become the Democrats' chief electioneering ploy. Their argument is patently wrong and immoral. It is an argument repeated ad nauseum by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, as well as their allies in the media. The argument, expressed by Biden, is this: "220,000 Americans dead....Anyone who's responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of the United States of America."
But, of course, Trump isn't responsible for those deaths. Trump should have spoken sooner about wearing masks; he should have acted with more alacrity in developing testing. But COVID has spread throughout the world, killing hundreds of thousands, and is now spreading nearly unchecked throughout Europe, where lockdowns and masking have been prevalent for months. In fact, Democratic governors praised Trump for giving them the ventilators and personal protective equipment they sought; the White House's Operation Warp Speed has accelerated the development of a vaccine in historically unprecedented ways. The hardest-hit states in terms of death per millions were nearly all states with governors who did not follow Trump's preferred anti-lockdown policies.
Just as important, Democrats have never provided an alternative plan with regard to COVID. Biden's stated plan -- to accelerate a vaccine, to socially distance, to mask more, to create local authority for targeted lockdowns -- is no different from Trump's. Biden was holding packed rallies into early March. Democrats have repeatedly condoned or celebrated massive rallies of millions of people during the pandemic, so long as those rallies meet with their political approval.
The narrative that Trump is responsible for COVID's death toll, then, is a religious argument, not a factual one. It is reliant on a perverse view of the universe by which Trump is responsible for all evil, a miasmatic orange Satan haunting the land. And, the theory goes, if Trump is excised, COVID will be controlled by someone with a steadier hand.
That's nonsense. The pandemic will continue on Nov. 4, no matter who is elected. But so long as Trump is labeled the true scourge, rather than COVID, Trump will pay the political price. And the so-called Party of Science will continue to promote that anti-scientific lie all the way up through Election Day.
Ben Shapiro, 36, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of "The Ben Shapiro Show" and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com. He is the author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller "The Right Side of History." He lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles.