The election impact

Photo+courtesy+of+Time+Magazine

Photo courtesy of Time Magazine

Quinten Seghers and Leann Bast

America, land of the free, a self-proclaimed beacon of hope, liberty and above all, democracy. 

Every four years, U.S. citizens come from all walks of life to partake in the world’s second largest democratic undertaking, beaten only by India according to HITC

The American election is closely watched by citizens of other countries and their respective political leaders. As a change of power in American leadership most certainly means an altered path of global affairs itself. 

America, ever since the country’s inception in 1776, has been, and has continued to be for that matter, a world leader. As the world’s oldest surviving democracy and now second largest economy according to PolitiFact, America cannot just stand idle whilst impervious anti-democratic global events occur.

So while American politicians love to dramatize the importance of their election results every single election, the outcome of the American election is in a lot of ways crucial to the direction the world treks forward in! It certainly still appears that other countries still take America’s elections very seriously. The Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said on October 21st that Russia and Iran have already interfered with the U.S. presidential election according to Cable News Network (CNN). 

According to CNN, Iran attempted to pose operatives as members of a far-right group known as Proud Boys in an email campaign to threaten known democrat voters. It appears that the intent of these emails was to damage the president’s reputation. This is because Trump publicly supported the group by telling the Proud Boys at the very first presidential debate to “stand back and stand by”.

Nevertheless, it is known now according to CNN that Russia and Iran both have somehow illegally obtained voter registration information as well. This will most likely be used to target likely voters with disinformation campaigns.   

Therefore, the importance of this election cannot be understated. 

As election day looms closer and closer, both candidates have taken a new coined phrase to heart whilst speaking on their podiums this election cycle. 

“This election is a battle for the heart and soul of America.”

 This new phrase, used repeatedly by both candidates according to MSN News, aims to convince Americans yet again that this election is the most important one of our lifetimes. 

What remains unarguable however is the scale upon which this election has been distorted and put under serious strain and logistical challenges. Most particularly, the vice-like grip that COVID-19 has now established on America’s windpipe.

The last election that America had to undergo during a pandemic and the most recent major pandemic for that matter was the 1918 Spanish Flu.  

It’s rare to see a singular event re-invent so much of America’s political landscape seemingly overnight. Well as a matter of fact, in 2020, it certainly has. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an entirely new category of political dilemmas that can be debated over, cultivating for nearly over seven months now. 

From the dilemma of masks and personal freedom to restrictive lockdown measures to widespread testing and illness, it is clear for all to see that this pandemic has caused major shifts in the political landscape. 

Even as it is a hot topic and one of the, arguably, most controversial shifts, keep in mind that masks are currently one of the best ways that people can help protect oneself and others at the same time from potentially contracting the virus.

“It’s very obvious that in order to help prevent it [COVID-19] we need to wear masks,” said 11th grader Samantha Clapp. “Because it helps keep the germs from you going to other people and from other people going into you.”   

Various other shifts can be best seen in the presidential debates, which presidential candidates typically always attend, and have done so in some form for decades. Ever since 1987, presidential debates have been held by the Commission on Presidential Debates according to the Los Angeles Times.

This is a nonprofit corporation which was established under the joint sponsorship of Democratic and Republican representatives. The commission’s official goal is to facilitate deeper political thought and discussion among America’s potential future leaders. It also serves the purpose of providing the American public with information from the candidates themselves regarding who they would run the country. In essence, the committee wants to help educate the public. 

Nevertheless, the commission leaves it up to the moderators to choose the seven topics and individual questions that will be asked during said debates. The first debate had Chris Wallace as moderator and the third and final one had Kristen Welker as moderator. These well renowned political journalists and interviewers both chose to include COVID-19 as one of their topics. Highlighting the importance of the pandemic to American voters. The second debate would have been moderated by Steve Scully had it been held. 

In all honesty, COVID-19 is an important topic for American voters. Not only because the U.S. has never had such a major public health crisis on this scale in decades, but also because it has been dramatically affecting Americans.

In the span of just over seven months, American life has entirely altered, skyrocketing America’s natural social development. Now, everything is getting pushed to the extremes, slowly growing trends such as online grocery shopping have taken off. 

The recent and astounding social and economic developments can all be a bit much to bear. Either way, if there is one thing the virus has been consistent in doing, it is making sure that nothing remains consistent. 

According to Time Magazine, before the pandemic, surveys indicated that 8.5 percent of Americans showed strong enough signs of depression to warrant a probable diagnosis. Now, that number has jumped to an astonishing 28 percent, that is nearly one third of all Americans reporting serious signs of depression. 

The numbers do not get any better. There’s a reported nine percent jump in people experiencing moderate depression symptoms, a five percent increase in moderately severe symptoms and a slightly over five percent increase in severe symptoms. 

Ignoring all other societal pressures, side effects and mental health toll of this pandemic, there is another consequence that remains strikingly deadly. The death toll. 

As of press time, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, over 8.2 million Americans have confirmed positive for the virus, and over 225,000 thousand have died. 

While it is rather difficult to mathematically determine just exactly which country has had the worst COVID-19 response, there are some clear cut indicators. As of press time, America has the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths out of any country worldwide. Also, according to NBC News, the U.S. has just hit an average of 1,000 deaths a day, much worse than other countries. 

Despite this rather grim report on the state of the country, on October 20th, when President Trump was asked by Eric Bolling as to what he would have changed regarding his handling of the virus, Trump responded with “not much”. 

At the end of the day, it is up to voters across the country as to whether or not they believe Trump did all he could. As of press time, current national polling shows that voters and the U.S. people are not buying it. 

“The number of cases we’ve had are definitely in part due to this administration,” said Clapp. “If the administration had announced and started the mask mandates and the six feet apart rule earlier, there would most likely be less cases. But you also have to take into account that some of these cases are also due to people not following the restrictions.” 

According to TheHill, President Trump’s approval on his handling of the pandemic dropped to 31 percent, a dramatic tumble from 43 percent in March, the start of the pandemic in the US. 

With current polling indicating an uphill battle for Trump’s re-election chances this November, he has also been battered by a series of Biden endorsements from top Republican in recent weeks. 

According to Forbes, former Republican Senator and Clinton Defense Secretary Bill Cohen of Maine endorsed Biden. He reportedly blasted Trump’s “failed leadership” on COVID-19. Former Pence aide and White House coronavirus task force member Olivia Troye said, “flat-out disregard for human life” relating to Trump’s coronavirus response. Former Pennsylvania Gov. and Bush Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge endorsed Biden in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed. The two men said “it is not within him. He lacks the empathy, integrity, intellect and maturity to lead.” 

Evidently, not a report one would want to hear before re-election from their own party members. 

Ultimately, one could go on and on about Trump’s COVID-19 related actions taken throughout the past seven months. However, the consequences show themselves plenty in the national polling averages, which Trump is apparently an avid consumer of according to CNN

Additionally, due to personal fears over the virus and ballot security, thousands of eligible Americans have turned to mail-in-ballots and early voting to ensure their participation in this election. 

“Due to the pandemic, it will become more difficult to vote because if you don’t turn in the mail vouchers you actually have to go to in-person voting,” said Clapp. “That’s very high risk and if guidelines aren’t followed there could be an increase in the [COVID-19] numbers because there is going to be a lot of people in a small-ish area.” 

The pandemic has thus far managed to trigger an avalanche of early voting on unprecedented levels across the board. So far, the numbers have been astounding.

According to Vox News, 81 million Americans have already voted as of press time. This far outstrips by nearly double the number of Americans who voted early in 2016 which was 47,015,596 people. 

Voter turnout is expected to jump to 65 percent according to FiveThirtyEight and roughly two-thirds of voters said they planned to vote early or by mail in 2020, an increase of roughly 20 percent from 2016. 

According to Vox News, these early voting results might skew democratic as President Trump has repeatedly attacked vote-by-mail over the past few months in the leadup to the election. This inevitably caused Republicans to be less enthusiastic about election security and heighten fears over voting by mail. 

All-in-all, it would appear that with the U.S. election entering into high gear, it is still capable of functioning properly, even during a pandemic. Although only time can tell if this analysis stays true. Either way, what are you waiting for? Go make your voice be heard and vote today!

*This article is part of an ongoing series regarding Coronavirus for The Phoenix. In following releases, we’ll go in depth with “impact” articles, each highlighting a different way in which the virus has affected our lives. Stay tuned for more information.*