How does a worldwide health crisis impact an election year? Does the election matter less now in comparison to current world events, or more than ever before?
The coronavirus pandemic caused most of the world to come to a screeching halt. Schools are closed, restaurants are shut down and the economy is taking a massive hit. With all of the fear in our world today, you would think that political leaders would band together and put politics aside for the sake of our nation and our world.
Oddly enough, the opposite is seeming to occur, and the coronavirus is quickly becoming a “political virus,” as well as a literal virus.
According to the New York Times, this is not the first time this situation has presented itself, since there was also an election in the midst of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. During a national crisis, the country often bands together and unites during a time of fear and uncertainty. Usually though, there is an outside enemy that is threatening or attacking the country, therefore making the threat easy to identify. Americans would then band together against the outside threat, and rally alongside their government.
The current coronavirus pandemic is a much different circumstance than a looming war or a feared attack, though. As the New York Times put it, “The problem for [President Donald] Trump is that this actually isn’t a war. It’s a health crisis. The government may attempt to mobilize in some of the same ways it would if the country were actually at war, but a health crisis carries a different psychological freight than a combat war.”
There is no specific enemy to fear, but rather an invisible virus with no known cure. It is still too early to see if this virus will help or hurt Trump’s chances of getting reelected, but it mostly looks like the American people are somewhat indifferent to Trump’s efforts to combat the virus.
Overwhelmingly, his allies are sticking by his side and those who have opposed him in the past are continuing to do so. Trump has continued using language that many have deemed insensitive, since he has been referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus.” When asked during a press conference if his comments regarding the virus were racist, he replied, “It’s not racist, no not at all. Because it comes from China, that’s why.”
Aside from people’s obvious support or disdain for the president, one of the biggest accomplishments of Trump’s presidency has been his efforts to boost the economy. Unfortunately, with the Dow plummeting thousands of points in March, this outbreak is proving to do nothing beneficial for Trump’s presidency.
As for the candidates who are running against Trump in the upcoming election, they have taken the opportunity to speak out against the president’s actions during this difficult and tense time. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has not been quiet in discussing his disapproval of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. In a speech on March 9, Sanders discussed the “incompetence and recklessness” of Trump’s response to the issue.
“We have a major, major crisis and we must act accordingly,” Sanders said. “Therefore, it is an absolute moral imperative that our response as a government, as a society, as a business community and as individual citizens meet the enormity of this crisis.”
With all of this being said, the question to be asked is this: When should we stop having petty political fights and rally together during difficult times? Are the same political fights and issues valid during this time, or should we not be talking about politics at all?
I believe that politics and world issues go hand in hand, particularly in an election year. Although the entire world looks drastically different right now in every possible way, we must remember that presidents are largely remembered for the ways they handled emergency situations.
The Trump administration is in hot water, and voters will get to see firsthand how our outspoken and often “casual” president responds to a terrifying and unforeseen circumstance. It seems that Trump’s response is in line with his personality, and with what his supporters would expect out of him.
He is notoriously unapologetic for the things he says, and with that aspect of his presidency remaining unchanged, it seems that his supporters are sticking by his side.
Overall, it is unlikely that President Trump will lose support due to the coronavirus pandemic, or that he will gain any either.
The aisles are firmly split red and blue, and with the world in a crisis unlike one we have ever seen before, it does not look like voters will be swayed by this pandemic. As we all face a new and intense distancing from normal, everyday life, it will be interesting to see if voter turnout increases in the November election.
No matter what, one thing is clear—politics are as relevant as ever.