August 28, 2020

Weirdest Election Ever: Politics in the COVID-19 Era


As 2018 drew to a close, I predicted that Donald Trump would win a second term. It was fairly clear that impeachment was not going to work out the way Democrats hoped, the economy was strong, and none of the people identified as possible Democratic candidates seemed to have much chance of unifying a deeply divided party and attracting sufficient numbers of independent voters in swing states. Moreover, incumbent presidents are usually hard to beat.

2018 seems like a lifetime ago. At the time, we had no idea COVID-19 was coming or that our response would be as thoroughly incompetent as it has been. It is hard to imagine this not being a central issue in the upcoming election. And yet, if I was betting on the outcome, my money would still be on a Trump victory. Trump is still the incumbent, and I see little enthusiasm for Joe Biden on the left, little evidence that the Democratic Party is any less divided than was the case in 2018, and little reason to suspect that Trump's base is abandoning him over COVID-19 or anything else. To the contrary, most now appear to view him as some sort of savior. It wouldn't surprise me if the pandemic leaves them more determined to support his re-election.

What I will acknowledge is that COVID-19 will probably result in the election being much closer than it would have been. While I still think Trump will likely win, I do not expect it to be by nearly as wide a margin as I think it probably would have been otherwise. COVID-19 has injected a measure of uncertainty. This means that I would find a Biden victory much less surprising now than I would have in 2018.

Neither Biden nor Harris are who I hoped to see nominated to take on Trump, but I far prefer both to Trump. The question of who to vote for is an easy one. There are things I dislike about both Biden and Harris, but none of them would prevent me from supporting either candidate. This is amplified by the thought of the alternative. Just because I suspect we may see another round of Trump and Pence does not mean that I've given up or that I think it is not worth trying to prevent that from happening. I disagree with those saying that this is "the most important election of our lifetimes." I can think of several previous presidential elections I'd put ahead of this one, but that doesn't mean I do not consider this one important. It is important, as are they all.

I don't know about you, but I have had an extremely difficult time even paying attention to political stuff this time around. With COVID-19 impacting almost every aspect of daily life and what seems like a constant barrage of natural disasters and police brutality, I've had an increasingly difficult time focusing on much of anything aside from whatever is directly in front of me at the moment. It sure would be nice to have some good news soon!