Much has been written about America’s failure in containing the spread of the coronavirus within its shores. But now it is getting even more serious. As dozens of states are reporting record daily new cases, the US now accounts for a quarter of all global confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19. With new cases averaging 50,000+ over the past week, the death count is set to swell in the coming weeks.
Would it have been a different situation had coronavirus hit the US in a non-election year? Perhaps. But Donald Trump’s refusal to adhere to science has forced a reckoning four months from what looks like a tough re-election battle. The virus had hit most of the blue states - Democrat strongholds - early on, and Trump administration did not offer much help. Now the virus has engulfed many of the red states - Republican majority areas - so close to election, Trump cannot afford more lockdowns. So, it spreads!
Far from it, Trump now wants schools reopened by fall season, hoping to give an impression that all is normal. Kids going back to school will certainly help working parents return to day jobs, but critics observe that it is not safe to drop the kids off just yet. Amidst the virus ripping through most of America, even safe states such as New York, which went through two months of lockdowns and human tragedies to contain the spread, are not willing to reopen schools so soon.
Voters watch on in agony as a dysfunctional government fumbles in its response to the pandemic. Arguing with a divided public and having to make hard personal decisions in these times may produce a unique cocktail of electoral outcomes in November. New energy in racial justice movement, Black Lives Matter - further provoked by the “culture wars” that Trump is accused of waging on Twitter - will also add to the mix. As will boycotts that are aimed at companies profiting from hate (e.g. Facebook).
Thus far, Joe Biden is in the lead nationally, also putting daylight between him and Trump in several swing states that Trump had won in 2016. Trump’s approval ratings have declined since March 2020, the time when he started giving daily corona briefings that quickly backfired due to the divisiveness they caused. But with at least 40 percent of the public still approving of what he is up to, he looks competitive in a race that may have a lot more in store before election day. Trump needs an economic revival before then, which seems unlikely. Biden needs innovative ways to connect with the electorate so as to not squander the lead.
Right now, the world is in shock, as to how a great tech and military empire has so emaciated itself that it cannot even protect its people, what to talk of fighting on distant lands and seas on behalf of others. If the social and economic tensions in the US find resolution via electoral means, then the current unfavorable comparisons with China may start losing steam. The vibrancy of the American society is the only hope left to restore US government’s credibility at home and abroad.