COVID-19 has upended the basic functions of life in the U.S.. While healthcare and businesses experienced the initial disruptions that the virus brought, the elections are quickly falling into disarray as well. As the presidential race fast approaches, addressing how people will vote becomes more and more pertinent. The preservation of democracy hinges on the willingness of the Republicans to accept more remote voting.
The U.S. failed to prevent COVID-19 from gaining a foothold in the country despite Trump’s bold proclamations on Twitter otherwise. The result of this failure has changed the lives for all Americans: schools have shut down, companies have shifted to remote work, small businesses have temporarily closed all together. On March 15th, the CDC recommended gatherings should be reduced to a minimum. However, this recommendation has directly affected more than work and social settings. Fifteen states as of April 7th have postponed their primaries. The necessity of reducing the virus’s spread is paramount to the wellbeing of American citizens, therefore reducing in-person contact, especially in large numbers, is understandable. However, some states have continued with their elections. Wisconsin, for example, has proceeded with keeping their voting booths open, resulting in lines of people exposing themselves to the virus and increasing the risk of infection. It is up to the citizens to decide whether their right to vote outweighs the security of their health.
Yet, this is not something that should have tradeoff. There should be institutional barriers that aim to prevent as much mass scale disenfranchisement that is occurring right now. These checks, however, have failed to materialize any effective counter. The Supreme Court, for example, has voted against a motion to extend absentee voting in Wisconsin. Democrats have made calls to extend voting rights during the crisis. Once the November elections arrive Democrats hope to have implemented key features to open safer options of votings, such as extended early and late voting-by-mail.
Trump has asked Republicans to fall in line by demanding the party to take a strong stance against these actions, citing it puts Republicans at a disadvantage. This is one of the symptoms of democratic backsliding occurring. In “Stealth Authoritarianism”, author Varol  explains how despots often mask their control of the state through secretive methods. Among these is a claim for democratic reform that is ultimately made to deflect attention away from undemocratic actions. In this case Trump does this through a more convoluted means. Rather than implement a democratic reform to maintain power, he challenges the reforms that could remove his power. Using rhetoric that seems to be pro-voting, such as claiming ‘voter fraud’ only serves to obscure the damage that his office and his party could be doing by indirectly suppressing elections. It also important to note that it is deliberate misinformation to suggest voter fraud is more likely to occur by mail. Similar to a study conducted  on how propaganda is issued from Marie Le, Trump reshapes statistics and constructs a narrative that such reforms are detrimental to American democracy.
To challenge democratic relief now would be tantamount to inviting authoritarianism. One need only look at the case of Weimar Germany. As Peukert  notes, Weimar Germany suffered through several crises before inviting a demagogue onto the political stage, crises which the U.S. is seen going through currently: a distrust of the political establishment, shaky economic forecasts, and the lack of institutional restraint on the executive. Therefore it is more than necessary for the Republicans and Democrats alike to push for the preservation of democracy by securing the right to vote without citizens fearing for their life.
Works Cited Varol, Ozan. 2015. “Stealth Authoritarianism.” Iowa Law Review 100(  Martin, Gregory J., and Ali Yurukoglu. 2017. “Bias in Cable News: Persuasion and Polarization.” American Economic Review, 107  Peukert, Detlev J.K. 1987. The Weimar Republic: The Crisis of Classical
Modernity. New York: Macmillan. Chapters 12-14.