How Coronavirus has reshaped the 2020 Election
The novel Coronavirus has reshaped the entire world. To many Americans it initially appeared as a foreign outbreak having little potential impact on the United States. Downplaying the threat of COVID-19 to Americans was a political card played hand-after-hand by some as a joint effort to both prevent panic and not to lose voters. Now, after reality trumped that ineffective policy, the Coronavirus is peacocking a sense of irony as it drastically reshapes American politics and the 2020 election.
Social distancing (standing a minimum of 6 feet apart from other people) has quickly become a peculiar norm. Lines of tape in grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail locations (essential or other) show how deeply everyday life has been affected by COVID-19 restrictions. Increased Plexiglas sneeze guards now make shopping and socializing experiences feel more like a state of emergency than an errand or outing.
In-person voting lines (where even permitted) are subject to the same 6-feet-apart rule. This undoubtedly adds a new degree of tension to an already tense election. Lines may be longer and take more time to traverse. Voters are likely to be required to wear protective masks, making the entire image of voting more surreal.
In addition to masks and social distancing, hand sanitization must be addressed. Medical facilities are using dirty pen buckets and recycling sanitized pens to patients in waiting rooms. Will voting facilities engage in similar precautions? Assuming they will, the bigger question might be how having to worry about these additional (and serious) measures will adversely impact efficiency and accuracy at the in-person voting facilities.
COVID-19 has knocked the American political system on its proverbial side. Divides in policy, rhetoric and core value systems have suddenly become exposed like no other time. U.S. responses to the pandemic and its possible treatment have received mixed messages leaning more towards criticism than approval. The government has vacillated between denying the severity of the virus in America to sending out a massive stimulus package to its citizens and imposing mandatory curfews. Death tolls have risen above initial projections even as some politicians attempt to spin those numbers into votes by deflecting blame or outright hiding real statistics.
The political landscape in America has changed indefinitely because of the Coronavirus. People are scared and people are angry. Granted, these might not all be for the same reasons, but the majority of the United States is feeling the stress of this virus in tandem with its most important election in recent times.
President Trump initially gained favor in the polls while downplaying the severity of the virus and hard selling his role in keeping it under control. That veil fell off as Trump forced himself to be more of the centerpiece at press briefings, asking odd questions and stumbling over potentially dangerous words, putting American citizens at risk. Joe Biden, his political opponent for 2020, has seen an increase in popularity conversely because he bowed out of the center stage spotlight. Biden is not without his own propensity for verbal gaffes and being able to sit back and let the incumbent fall all over himself has served Biden well - at least in the short term. Biden also helped craft the Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents and dedicated full website page to displaying his current plan regarding COVID-19.
For Trump to find a way back to being a solid majority favorite he will have to successfully navigate this new political landscape. It is a landscape so vastly affected by a disease no one yet knows how to cure. He will have to overcome more obstacles than expected to promote his agenda, all while people around the world are dying from the virus. Biden will have to be vigilant in his approach and not become complacent. For now, he can largely ride the wave of mistakes COVID-19 has caused his opponent to make.
Main-in balloting is a serious and frequent subject leading up to the 2020 election. Some people cannot leave their homes due to being at high risk for contracting COVID-19. Other people simply will not. In some states, in person voting has been banned. Various states have already conducted primaries with an emphasis on mail-in voting and crucial mistakes were discovered with the process. Some cry fraud or voter suppression while others shout about antiquated, systemic services such as the USPS failing its people. The truth is there will be some mistakes and no shortage of blame to follow as states scramble to implement additional measures to handle the tidal wave of mail-in ballot requests, and consequent ballots received in November.
Virus Response Success in Proportion to Voter Turnout
U.S. states started reopening in phases after the initial wave of quarantining and curfews were lifted. Pressure to restart economies at local, state and federal levels was, and remains, high. Unfortunately, the states with a most aggressive approach to loosening virus-based restrictions are now seeing new spikes in reported COVID-19 cases.
All partisan perspectives fully aside, there is no easy answer to this situation. The economy is suffering which means workers, families and businesses are suffering. A church in Oregon tried to reopen and the virus spiked in its town. The COVID-19 wave is large and dangerous to ride. The candidate who pulls ahead in the 2020 U.S. election will be the one who falls off it the least and has the softest landings. There is no telling which one that will actually be this early in the process but the impact of the novel Coronavirus on this election is not taking pause to find out.