“May you live in interesting times.”
Most people would interpret that statement as a positive blessing, suggesting you wish someone a life filled with challenge and excitement. But it can also be interpreted ironically – “interesting” could mean times of pain and trouble compared to “uninteresting” times of peace and tranquility.
The U.S., like the rest of world, is going through “interesting” times. The year 2020 started with most of the focus on impeachment as well as who would be the Democratic candidate. Those questions were resolved very quickly in the year – Trump was acquitted of the impeachment charges in January and Joe Biden became the Democratic nominee in March.
Now everyone’s attention is focused on the Covid-19 pandemic. The U.S. is closed – 22 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the past 3 weeks, millions more were furloughed without pay, millions working from home. Air travel is down by 95% - airports and plans are empty. Most states have required people to wear masks everywhere outside their homes. The streets of major cities like New York are mostly empty.
There are so many unknowns today – but the main question is “when will the U.S. return to normal?” Unfortunately, that will require a new definition of “normal”. For example:
1) Americans will need to agree to frequent testing and if positive, contact
tracing by the government and possibly their employer. Amazon
announced it is studying a new policy to test all its employees on a
on a regular basis. Dr. Fauci, one of the key medical advisors to President Trump,
has suggested that people who have recovered from Covid may be given
“immunity passports” which would allow them to travel and work.
Americans have always fiercely defended their freedoms and privacy, so new
laws requiring some sacrifice in these areas could be met with a tsunami of lawsuits.
2) Offices and schools will need to be redesigned to allow for more “social distancing” -
at least 2 meters between people, including conference rooms.
3) No handshakes or hugs when greeting others.
4) No conferences or sales meetings when “social distancing” can’t be created.
These are just a few of the major changes Americans may face in the months and years to come. No matter what actions are taken, the Covid 19 pandemic will continue to hospitalize and kill people. Government leaders will need to find a balance between
opening the economy and saving jobs vs. more people getting sick and dying. As one writer stated “we cannot commit suicide out of fear of dying from this disease.”
What impact will this pandemic have on the U.S. Presidential election?
Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee but he can’t campaign in public. He is 77 years old and is trying to mount an internet campaign, but the response has not been very
enthusiastic, especially from younger voters. He has made numerous speaking errors where it seems he can’t remember what he was saying. The Democratic convention
was postponed from July to August and it may be a virtual event because of social
distancing. This could reduce any emotional momentum for the Biden campaign going
into the Fall.
Trump’s campaign also suffers from not being allowed public rallies. But Trump has the advantage of appearing on television every day for Covid 19 updates and to answer press questions. His media exposure is massive compared to Biden. The Republican convention is also set for August, but it may also be a virtual event. This would put even more pressure on the Presidential debates which will be televised in the Fall. Trump
might have the advantage because he is a more natural television personality and Biden is will known for making verbal mistakes or losing his thought process.
No one can predict with certainty who has the advantage in the Presidential election. If Trump can open the economy with minimal damage in terms of Covid fatalities and the
unemployment rate can return to less than 5%, he has an excellent chance of winning.
If the economy worsens or if Covid fatalities are worse than expected, Biden has a chance.
Given Biden’s numerous speaking mistakes, it is also possible he could resign his campaign for health reasons. If that happens, 2 Democratic governors would be formidable opponents to Trump – Gavin Newsom of California and Andrew Cuomo of New York. Governors have traditionally been excellent Presidential candidates – Jimmy Carter (Georgia), Ronald Reagan (California), Bill Clinton (Arkansas), and George Bush (Texas) had executive experience that led to victories in their Presidential races.
There are less than 200 days until the election – that will be a long time. We can only hope that it not more “interesting” than the first months of 2020.