As America’s healthcare system lays exposed in the throes of coronavirus, there is a feeling that the pandemic came a bit late for Bernie Sanders, the champion for universal healthcare and basic income. The Democrats’ pre-corona calculus was to find a candidate who could beat Trump, so the party united behind Joe Biden, who took a sizable delegate lead in the Democratic primaries as of early March.
As coronavirus intensified in the US around middle of March, political activities came to a halt. Facing a narrow path to nomination and being unable to campaign amidst the lockdown, Sanders dropped out of the race last week. Hence, Biden has become the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee to take on Donald Trump in November 2020. (For a background on what a Biden presidency might mean for Pakistan, read: “Uncle Biden and Pakistan,” published May 28, 2019).
The fact that a Biden presidency now looks plausible bodes well for the future global cooperation. America needs to come into its own by leading a global response to fight this pandemic and the next. However, some questions have cropped up in the run-up to this duel that is due in 30 weeks. For instance, how competitive is Joe Biden against Trump, at a time when Biden has practically no avenue to be heard while Trump is a regular fixture on TV, briefing the country as commander in chief?
Several polls conducted that have been conducted in April thus far suggest that Biden is set to comfortably beat Trump this fall. A lot can still change in the next six to seven months, but it does not look good for Trump. The president’s approval ratings got a brief support in late March, but disapproval has been rising again in April due to poor crisis management and rising joblessness in a tanking economy.
Another question is that while Democrats’ desire to get rid of Trump is sure to have intensified with the presidential mishandling of this crisis, are there any cracks in the Trump base, given that the virus is not a hoax and the disease isn’t exactly discriminating between Republicans and Democrats?
It is premature to say if there is a chink in the red armor, but it cannot be that a fumbling president comes out popular from a deadly crisis that looks set to have a tragic toll across both red and blue states. The president has begrudgingly accepted advice of health experts to fight the menace, but his daily TV appearances in his usual combative self don’t exactly pass as an act of reassuring a nation’s nerves.
While there is nothing to suggest that presidential elections will be delayed due to the pandemic, there is confusion over how the polls will take place. Even if the curve is flattened by summer, experts have warned that virus might return in the fall. Democrats are proposing mail-based voting, which Republicans and Trump aren’t so keen on. Action on this urgent matter needs to start now for states to be ready in time. Otherwise, it will be an act of immense courage for Americans to come out and vote in November.