As the coronavirus pandemic continues to shatter global economies and disrupt lives, it is likely to reshape the political landscape in the United States, especially the 2020 presidential elections.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, President Donald Trump suggested delaying the election, scheduled for Tuesday, November 3. As per the American constitution, the president has no power to postpone the vote. That decision rests with the Congress.
Due to the alarming spread of COVID-19, which is on the rise in the US, most states may opt for mail-in voting instead of the in-person voting as a social distancing measure. Trump suggested in his tweets that because of the mail-in voting the November elections would be “the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history.”
“It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote,” he added.
...the significant segment of society that supports Trump...may be willing to go to extremes to defend what they see as his right to remain in the White House.
Of course, there is no evidence to support Trump’s claim that the mail-in voting will be rigged. However, his unprecedented suggestion shows how the coronavirus is impacting the elections. Firstly, President Trump seems worried more than ever that his chances of re-election are increasingly diminishing. US analysts suggest that his poor response to the outbreak of COVID-19 may have led to the wide and quick spread of the virus in the country.
The declining rating approval of the president in recent polls indicate the growing chances of his rival, former senator Joe Biden in the race to the White House.
Secondly, the US president’s suggestion to delay the elections may also signal a more serious attitude. Trump could contest the results based on his assertion that mail-in voting can be ‘inaccurate’ or at worst ‘fraudulent’. If he declines to accept the results, in case Biden wins, Trump could very well plunge the US into a never-seen-before political and economic crisis.
American society has never been polarised as it is today. The recent Black Lives Matter protests showed that the US is still divided on colour lines. The same can be said when it comes to the significant segment of society that supports Trump, which may be willing to go to extremes to defend what they see as his right to remain in the White House.
Such a crisis will deal a fatal blow to an economy that is struggling to recover from the devastating impact of the coronavirus. The latest data, released on Thursday, showed that the US economy has plunged by 32 per cent in the second quarter because of the economic closure imposed to contain the spread of the virus. A serious political crisis involving the White House will undoubtedly have irreparable damage to the economy.
Trump’s suggestion to delay the election is ill-advised. Hopefully, he will reconsider. And fortunately, the decision is not his.