COVID19: A Factor in the US Presidential Election

Twenty-twenty has occupied a distinct place in history due to the rise of the deadly pandemic which has, so far, claimed two hundred thousand lives in America and many more across the world. It was a key subject at the first Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Its importance can not be overlooked, its overriding consequence is armed with a commanding influence in the US forthcoming election in November.
Interestingly, at the debate, when Joe Biden accused Donald Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, the president fired back responding that it would have been worse under Biden’s watch. Trump strongly believed that thousands of lives lost to the virus could have crossed to millions if Joe Biden were to be president. There is nothing in that statement that comes close to the truth, and the reality remains that Donald Trump is the president when the pandemic raged in US cities. Under Barrack Obama, Joe Biden was Vice President for 8 years without a virus as deadly as this outbreak.

But beyond the attention occupied by the virus, the presidential debate was particularly dramatic and challenging to watch. To put it simply, it was chaotic. The moderator of the widely-criticized debate, Chris Wallace, was generally accused of his lax conduct. The presidential debate was unprecedented for its little attention to decorum in the face of the camera. Joe Biden showed a tremendous will to debate but Trump appeared to come with a strategy to hector.

Trump’s strategy was to exhaust Joe Biden by jumping on him anytime he opened his mouth to speak, distorting his line of thought. This strategy appeared to be consistent but it failed to work on Joe. On the other hand, it appeared to have ignited a fire in Joe to fight back and in one of those moments he said, “will you shut up man.” Trump’s favorite name for the Democratic candidate was sleepy Joe. This nickname is rooted in the perception that Joe Biden is a slow and incompetent leader. Trump has also highlighted the senility of the former vice president, proclaiming that he was the easiest candidate to beat at the ballot. 

President Trump showed little interest in debating with Biden but will this affect his campaign? The answer is unclear and uncertain. Trump boasts of a strong fan base that are unmitigated by his action. He had once famously said he could shoot a man down the road and he won’t lose a single fan. It is hard to see how the presidential debate will change the mind of someone who is already a Trump supporter. Joe Biden came to the podium to speak directly to the American people as it was obvious in the way he frequently addressed the camera. As it can be deduced, Trump was not there to win a candidate that isn’t already in his demography. While Joe Biden placed a higher priority in using the platform to encourage people to come out and vote, Trump’s strategy may be leaning towards voter apathy.

Trump rode on a campaign of calumny, appealing to the people he called the silent majority. His bold embrace of white supremacy, his racist and misogynistic slurs have polarised and exposed the artificiality of American democracy. Trump can be Trump because he is white and male. It is hard to picture a black Trump or a woman Trump having such a solid run at the presidency. If the president fanbase is still as solid as it was in the last election then history may be repeated. There is no reason, at the moment, to believe otherwise. Trump is not politically correct, he doesn’t try to hide his hatred for the press. During the debate, he wailed that he often gets “bad press” all the time while Joe Biden enjoys all the favors of the press. That Trump seeks to enjoy media favor while his campaign was based on intensifying distrust of the press — belittling journalists at every opportunity he gets — is baffling.

The founding fathers of the American nation built a federalism that doesn’t embrace one man one vote at the presidential level. The electoral college was built on the trust that few selected people can shoulder the responsibility of determining the interest of larger people. Over the years, American democracy has evolved, the electoral college has been reshaped to fit the times. In many states in American, the winner of popular votes takes the electoral college votes by default. But the power of the electoral college remains that it determines the president, next month when President Trump seeks reelection at the ballot, the former Vice President, who has never lost an election, will be seeking for the mandate of the electoral college to have a chance at the oval office as the President.
A few days after the debate, Trump was announced to have contracted the virus. Does this announcement have far-reaching implications for the election? The simplest answer is yes. The rest of the presidential debates may be canceled or conducted online. The report showed that Trump is asymptomatic but if the virus lingers closer to the election day, if it persists, the health status of the president may be a defining factor at the ballot box.

Recent news revealed that despite the fact that he has been diagnosed with COVID19, the President have continued to endanger the lives of his security agents and his State House staff by asserting himself as one who is as healthy as a fiddle. He has also been determined to continue his campaign by driving past the vicinity of the hospital and further endangering the lives of Americans who came around to catch a glimpse of the President,. Trump who loves to gain social media presence has also gone online to talk about the splendid conditions of treatment.

For many critics of the President, they have been careful not to publicly note that the President may be using his perceived and declared illness as a ‘reality show’ to elicit sympathy and gain support at the polls come November. They are careful not to be seen or perceived as insensitive to his person and the person of his wife. The urgent need to separate the dare need for humanness from the interrogation of Donald Trump’s health declaration has made many international democrats quiet.

The President who had accused the Chinese Government of culpability of spreading the virus across the world and has demanded international sanctions against China has been accused of disobeying all the COVID-19 rules in the book. For many months, President Trump had refused to use his face mask against criticism to do so. He had also refused to immediately order the shutdown of the American borders and airspace from the announcement of initial case of COVID-19. He had also championed the use of hydroxlychlorine for the cure of the infectious disease without considering the myriad implication of such declarations.

While Joe Biden have done the right thing by commiserating with President Donald Trump and his family, it is important that he must not shy away from his hardworn, no-holds-barred policy direction of President Donald Trump, that has made the world power a laughing stock among the comity of nations.

Basit Jamiu and Femi Morgan

Categories: Columns

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