Like everything in modern American life, even a pandemic is going to have political implications. There are threats to civil liberties on all fronts, there’s a lackluster federal response, and there’s a presidential election going on. COVID has gone political.
The Trump administration has used this crisis to roll back all sorts of rights and protections. There is talk about mandatory testing or required testing to go back to work ot get a job. The Justice Department is attempting to get powers to detain people indefinitely. The EPA has nearly stopped enforcing industrial regulations and Trump has rolled back automobile emission requirements from a 5% improvement in emissions per year to only 1.5%. On top of that, ICE has continued to arrest illegal immigrants and deport them. The border wall is also going up at a clipped pace. As the old saying goes in politics, never let a crisis go to waste. There is a major crisis and there are only a few people really talking about where personal rights are being preserved and where they are being run over.
never let a crisis go to waste
The federal response to the Coronavirus has been lackluster at best. In the early days, testing was crucial to find everyone who had it to contain the spread and failing that, patients began pouring into emergency rooms in Seattle and New York, then the issue became how to mitigate the effects and the crisis of personal protective equipment for first responders and hospital workers. In all of this, the President has shown moments and glimmers of leadership while leaving the states to handle the brunt of the response to the virus. This lack of federal response as created an uneven response to the crisis and has political implications with the Democrats calling for more federal direction and Republicans are seemingly content to let the states take care of the problem with some funding and the proper bailouts for corporate donors. Some states, like South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Arkansas haven’t bothered with orders despite a rising number of cases in those states that is disrupting health systems and the food supply chain. These days, it seems like all Republicans have rediscovered their roots with states’ rights and federalism.
How do you campaign without events and rallies?
The 2020 Election
Of course, in typical American style, crisis always seems to come during a Presidential election. In 2008, the financial crisis was at its peak in the closing days of that election and now, we’re hitting the bulk of the campaign season with social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Covid is now having an outsized effect on the 2020 election. The 2020 election was already going to be controversial because President Trump faces re-election with impeachment in late 2019 behind the administration. This is already on top of the many scandals, lies, and waning support from the American people. Meanwhile, the virus caused the democrats to truncate their primary. In early March, there were a raft of candidates and by Super Tuesday, the field had reduced itself to just 2: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. As of April 13, Sanders is also now out of the race despite an interesting debate performance in March. Ultimately, he just wasn’t picking up states and increasing his delegate count.
In just a month, the field has narrowed from 10 to 1 and Biden looks to have a clear path to the nomination. The debate on how to have an election during a pandemic is already raging. Without the usual events, press conferences, and more, the whole election has gone online. Joe Biden is making videos from his living room as if a YouTuber were running for President. His Twitter feed is busy sending out good news but ultimately, Biden is in a tough spot. He’s not in power and Trump has all the power. It is hard to get voters excited about a candidate when there’s a crisis and the best the opposition can do is monday-morning-quarterback the situation. Voting is also an issue. Wisconsin chose to continue with its primary this month only for it to be a mess due to social distancing and closed polling locations. National vote-by-mail has been proposed but the Republicans are ardently against the idea of letting every American vote by mail and forcing all states to make exceptions to their absentee voting laws. There is also an issue of Federalism again, the Constitution strictly puts the regulation of elections to the states. How much can Congress force their hand?
April 15, normally tax day, saw a protest in Michigan of concerned citizens who are unhappy with Michigan’s restrictive stay-at-home order. The democrat governor in that state has issued one of the strictest orders to stem the tide of the virus in her state. The protesters waved confederate flags and shouted to “lock her up.” Trump flags and MAGA hats abounded around the protest and people met in a large crowd. Governor Witmer issued a statement stating that she hears their concerns but their gathering may have inadvertently caused an extension of the order because their protest may spawn new cases of the virus.
The unity of America wasn’t going to last forever. It’s been a month at home for many and a long month on the front lines of keeping the going for the rest. It’s been a stressful time and with everyone under stressful conditions, everything was bound to result in partisan bickering at some point. Everything is partisan these days, even the pandemic. Regardless of your political affiliation or your state of residence, everyone is at risk of getting a disease there are precious few treatments for and little knowledge. Studies are being conducted right now and trials for treatments and vaccines are in place. It will be awhile before this pandemic is well and truly over. However, in good news, some places are stabilizing in their cases and that means that despite the protests and politics of it all, we may be at the start of getting on the other side of this.