Jesus Christ. I think most of us can agree we didn’t see anything on this scale coming. It hasn’t been more than a couple weeks since the University of Michigan decided to suspend in-person classes, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently decided to join several other states and shut down nonessential services. More and more people in the United States are getting infected, and we’ve even passed China as the country with the most confirmed cases. Each state is trying its own methods to limit the spread, with the march of infections seemingly unstoppable at its current rate. Many criticize President Donald Trump for his refusal to make the hard decisions early enough. The bewildering thing about this mess is that there’s supposedly a presidential race running concurrently. If you forgot about it, I wouldn’t entirely blame you. The news cycle seemingly switched from the U.S. presidential elections and “Decision 2020” to exclusively covering the coronavirus, spreading information and possibly fear-mongering for ratings. Understandably, the focus of many citizens is on the ongoing pandemic. But where does that leave us on the path leading up to November?
The most immediate repercussion on the election cycle has been the delay in Democratic primaries, where former Vice President Joe Biden has pulled a political upset against the already unprecedented early lead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Biden is now projected to win the nomination, a position almost nobody would’ve predicted just a month ago. The most recent state primaries were March 17: Arizona, Illinois and Florida. I personally hadn’t heard anything about them until the day after they happened. The news was supplanted by the ongoing crises in places like China and Italy, as the full brunt of the pandemic had yet to hit American shores. Ohio was also slated to have a primary that day, but delayed over early concerns about the virus.
Many of the future primaries — 14 states and one U.S. territory — have been delayed until a later date. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is scheduled to meet August 17, but the status of the convention has been put into question. How long will the quarantine last? Nobody really knows. Trump extended his social distancing guidelines until April 30, but will that be long enough? What happens next? We don’t know that, either. Not only is the primary put in jeopardy, but the general election in November is at risk as well. As of now, there are no plans to change anything involving the general, but there are still concerns to be addressed. Congress has granted the states $400 million to prepare for the disease-rampant populace voting in the general election, but strictly defined precautions are nowhere to be found. Many politicians fear a delay in the election, which is a step many countries — such as Chile and the U.K. — have already taken in their referendums and elections to avoid further infections. Trump, however, hasn’t made any moves toward delaying the election, and actually wants us to believe the virus will reach its peak before April is over.
If we want to find the solution and prevent further fatalities quickly, the first instinct is to follow the leader in damage control — which happens to be China. Following an autocracy to uphold the sanctity of a democracy is a strange thing, but these are strange times. New cases of infection in mainland China have nearly stopped, and the Asian powerhouse is taking a leading role in assisting fellow nations slow the spread of the virus. One benefactor of Chinese influence seems to be Italy, gladly accepting aid after European contemporaries seemed too busy with their own coronavirus struggles to assist their neighbors. But as much as it would seem topical, I’m not here to prescribe a solution to solve the issue, rather to try and have some foresight for November. As the U.S. is engulfed in its own crisis, the growing Chinese clout poses immediate and long-term implications.
But long-term implications are for people who aren’t impulsive. The short-term is of course the standing of Donald Trump, who has long stood at odds with the Chinese state on a variety of issues. Trump is hard-pressed to accept any aid from China and has tried his own hand at fixing the problem. From calling the panic a Democratic hoax to supporting a $2 trillion stimulus package, he’s quickly shifted his positions and tried to adjust to the continuous stream of bad news. Trump’s focus, however, has remained surprisingly consistent. He wants the economy to stay afloat. In a press conference on March 23, Trump went on record saying that “We have to save these companies. These are companies that weren’t in trouble three weeks ago, and now they’re in trouble because of what happened. These are great companies, they’re in some cases triple-A companies,” giving infallible justification for ignoring the general populace. Even before this $2 trillion stimulus, he was dumping money into the stock market to avoid a recession.
Trump is put into a volatile position this November, as his response to this crisis will most definitely affect his chances in the coming election. He’s handled it with the grace of an elephant jumping off a skyscraper into a backyard pool, but his position in the polls remains uncertain. In fact, Trump’s rating is rising amid the crisis. Trusting polls has made a fool of many before, but similar polls pitting Trump against frontrunner Biden show a closing gap between the two. Only time will tell if his chances were hindered or helped by his contemporary decisions, but they will certainly define his campaign.
A return to normalcy is something that many people wanted to come this November, but that fickle and uninformed dream has been shattered regardless of your candidate. The future is uncertain and none of us could’ve possibly predicted this. I don’t have some sweeping and all-encompassing prescription to solve everything I’ve listed in this piece, but I want you to stay on top of things. Make sure you aren’t caught off guard when the status quo changes. Stay informed and stay alert, and most of all, stay home.
Sam Fogel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.