“This election is about who’s going to be the next President of the United States!”Dan Quayle
It has been a long time since I wrote on this blog and much has happened in that time both within the United Kingdom and United States. Boris Johnson won a clear victory in a snap general election and Labour was set back to its worst position since the 1930s, Brexit happened, Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate (to the surprise of no one) and the Democrat Primaries began. I was considering using this post to write about the death and revival of Joe Biden’s campaign and how it should have not been a surprise to anyone who could view the polls in South Carolina, instead I am looking towards November and the effect of the great elephant in the room known as Covid 19.
With the Democrat primaries in effect decided with Joe Biden the nominee in all but name (if anyone believes that Bernie Sanders can win the nomination they need to check the demographics of the remaining states to vote), everyone can look towards the next stage of the election cycle – Election Day. Well, if this was any normal electoral cycle that is and whilst every election cycle presents something new and different for political scientists and historians to look at, 2020 will go down in history as one of the more unique elections. Why? Covid 19 obviously.
In the history of the United States there has never been an election has that happened in these sets of circumstances with it being seen as by many unsafe to leave their homes and vote. The United States has elected Presidents before in the middle of a war (1864 during the American Civil War and 1944 during World War 2), but despite the challenges of ensuring everyone could vote they triumphed. With Lincoln and Roosevelt being elected to terms which purely by chance would see them both dead within 12 months.
Being an observer to the situation within the United States, I hold no confidence in the Federal Government to be able to rise to the challenge of this crisis, in every way they seem to have failed so far with battling Covid 19. The state governments have for the most part been left to stand on their own, particularly New York which has become the world’s pandemic hotspot and whilst twitter should not be considered the be all and end all, the hashtag President Cuomo has been trending often after the Governor’s daily press conferences.
Unlike in 1864 and 1944, it will be down to the states (if the Federal Government continue as they are) in order to sort out the mess that will still likely be in effect during November. That means for those unaware there will be 50 different responses to how to ensure voting happens and if history is anything to go by people will try and weigh the scales in a particular party’s favour, I pity the work the FEC is going to have to do to try and keep this election fair.
Beyond the logistics, observing news coverage in the United States varying from the centrists in CNN and the New York Times (excluding editorial boards) and the partisan Fox News and MSNBC, what do you see? Covid 19 everywhere, no comment on the primaries or the election that is only 7 months away (I say only 7 months, election cycles in the United States begin after the midterms so 24 months roughly). The President is on show all the time showing his leadership, traditionally that benefits the incumbent’s re-election prospects, check Hurricane Sandy in 2012 comparing the coverage of Obama and Romney and you’ll see what I mean.
Only this time I am wondering if having Donald Trump on show everyday is actually helping him? I’ve watched his press conferences and they aren’t making him look good at all speaking from my own view but my own anecdotal evidence with some Moderate Republicans, he isn’t being the President they’d want him to be. They want him to be Bush 43 after 9/11, Donald Trump isn’t measuring up to the mark and in the states where the election will be won and lost in November his poll numbers aren’t doing too well.
This however is not good news for Joe Biden, the same Moderate Republicans are asking me where is he? I know where he is, I follow him on twitter (as I do Donald Trump) and he is giving daily addresses to his followers and launching low key attack ads on what he sees as Trump’s mishandling of the crisis. Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings are also sucking oxygen from time where Biden could be showing himself to be a strong leader in this time of crisis.
Joe Biden is not being given the air time he needs to put his message across, what he’d do differently and what should be done. Part of that will be down to that he isn’t the official presumptive nominee due to Sanders remaining in the race. The only coverage on the news outside of the editorial boards of newspapers is on MSNBC where on Brian William’s 11th Hour (which is always worth watching for anyone interested in what has happened that day in America), Biden was asked how the Democrat Convention in July could happen.
If Biden’s campaign is telling him to keep his head down to avoid any potential gaffes, they will need to change tactics soon. The American people need to remember that an election is happening and in a time of crisis who sits in the White House matters. For Trump he needs to start a true federal response (although it could be too late) and for Biden he needs to show himself as someone who can blow Trump out of the water and rally the centrists, moderate Republicans and Sanders supporters (who if you can believe twitter) would rather have Trump for 4 more years than vote Biden.
The norms are falling, every rule you could count on in previous election cycles (including Biden’s resurrection) has been blown apart. Traditional campaigning is now non existent. What can you do when an act of nature has disrupted how everything should go? Who will the eventual winner in November be? We’ll find out then, but it is a long time between now and November, all we can hope for is by then this global pandemic will be over with.
This election will be studied for years to come and the America of the future could well rely on how we acted today to tell them how to get through their crisis. Donald Trump, Joe Biden – history is watching.