The Fate of the 2020 American Election
How the pandemic has influenced policymaking
Nearly every presidential campaign for the 2020 American presidential elections was initially centered around issues of political reform, national and foreign policy, and general improvements to their methods of legislation and management of the country.
This changed in December 2019. In a matter of four months, the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak threw the United States into a state of social and economic disarray, with most businesses, schools, and workplaces being forced to shutting down and the unemployment rates skyrocketing to such an extent that it began resembling the unemployment rates of the Great Depression. Now, as COVID-19 seems to have passed its peak and begun to slow down, the country has started to inch towards reopening and suddenly the rules of the playing field for the 2020 presidential elections seem to have greatly changed.
The public has begun to make new demands of the government, demands that will have to be addressed and answered by not only the eventual winner of the elections but also the GOP and the Democrats in general as both parties wrestle to maintain their influence over the sphere of politics in the United States of America in an era of uncertainty and plummeting approval ratings.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, American citizens have expressed great concern over two key facets of American society: the economy and social welfare. Conveniently enough, the two major American political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, have tailored their campaigns to suit their already existing ideologies.
The Republican Party's stance evolved as a result of the current president’s decisions and policies. In a press briefing at the White House, President Donald J. Trump (who is also the Republican candidate for the upcoming elections in the latter half of 2020) admitted to being aware of the threat that the virus posed to American society late last year itself, but chose to not disclose the information to the general public in the hopes of protecting the economy and preventing widespread panic among American citizens.
While it comes as no surprise that this act did not stop America from entering into an economic depression as a result of widespread transmission of infections and resulting deaths causing nationwide shutdowns, it has made abundantly clear what the Republican party chooses to give importance to in regard to the situation the pandemic has created.
By this single action itself, the Republicans have made it apparent that a major selling point of their campaign will be centered around an economic revival of the United States, a country that has suffered one of the greatest economic slowdowns in its history as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease and the impacts it has subsequently had on American society.
This sentiment has been further displayed by Trump and in turn, the Republican Party with the granting of multiple stimulus packages to help small businesses grow or keep themselves afloat in a time of economic uncertainty. The stimulus packages are an act that is based on the concepts of Keynesian economics. By increasing government spending, they hope to pull the economy out of the depressive state it is currently in.
The Republicans argue that this approach to the economic situation is designed to improve America in two ways, they hope to stabilize the economy and also provide a financial push forward for the betterment of American citizens.
Trump’s haphazard handling of the pandemic, however, put him at a great disadvantage when it comes to his chances of winning the 2020 Presidential race. His decision to conceal the extent of the virus' effect and impact in December 2019 became the biggest misstep in his already troubled presidency.
The decision portrayed the president as ignorant, lacking civic senses, and favoring corporate America over the welfare of his citizens.
Although Trump has managed to improve his public image with his recent policies, this original decision to effectively withhold information from the public has become a smoking gun of sorts for his political opponents, more specifically for the Democratic Party.
The modern Democratic Party has touted itself as the champion of the rights of the common man; it has maintained its welfarist policies to benefit the majority of American citizens (and in some cases even non-citizens). It is obvious why as the dominant liberal party in America, the Democrats have chosen to center their campaign around the issue of social welfare.
The Democratic candidate, Joe Biden has repeatedly attempted to expand his voter bank to include those who were most affected by the pandemic that is the “unprotected” America.
Unprotected America, a term coined by American author Peggy Noonan refers to the part of the population who do not possess strong financial security or high levels of education. They are the part of the population who, during major events such as the current pandemic, suffer catastrophically. In the case of COVID-19, a majority of the unprotected section of America lost their jobs as a result of the stay-at-home and lockdown orders along with other emergency policies that were passed by the Republican executive branch.
In rallying this sector of voters, the Democrats can challenge the largely capitalist model of the Republicans which has fallen into deep disfavor among this section of Americans who also make up a large number of the vote bank.
Earning the loyalty of the unprotected citizens however has proven to be a difficult task in itself. Even though the party has a head start as a result of President Trump’s mismanagement of the crisis, it requires more concrete and resounding statements in order to gain the trust and loyalty of the unprotected citizens. It is now up to the Democratic Presidential candidate, Joe Biden and his team to capitalize on the unprotected American's burning desire for some sort of social reform that will benefit the masses and not only those who form the majority of corporate America.
There is no way to definitely state which candidate will win the upcoming election, however, it is imperative that both these candidates work towards the improvement of a society that has been hit by a cataclysmic and unprecedented event.
Staring at the face of uncertainty in the strangest of times both candidates are faced with an uphill task of winning what might be the most closely watched election in American history.
By: Sanjana Sharma