In analyzing the effects of COVID-19 upon the nation, one thing is clear to economists: the virus has only exacerbated preexisting inequality. Class divides in America are widening—how will this impact the upcoming presidential race?
According to the article “American Inequality Meets COVID-19” from the Economist (https://www.economist.com/united-states/2020/04/18/american-inequality-meets-covid-19), America’s financial plan is comparatively less generous than those of other rich nations. However, as citizens living under Republican administration, many working families of our market society are grateful to have seen some form of financial aid at all. But despite the Trump administration’s philanthropic efforts, those who need relief the most are having the hardest time receiving it; and in the wake of the highest infection and death rate in the world, what will the run for U.S. presidency look like? More specifically, after suffering unimaginable losses and facing a future of uncertainty, how will the American electorate respond to Trump in the 2020 election?
My theory is that Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is going to remove him from office. The government has underestimated the power of the working class and once again neglected to appraise the extent of their needs during this time. While a universal basic income-esque relief package is great in theory, the problem with UBI is in its own name: it is a universal fix to an issue that does not have a universal solution. Instead of allocating aid appropriately, they attempted to dole out funds equally amongst a country of people who do not have equal needs.
Before the virus hit, the nation was already at a politically polarized and tense time. It was clear pre-pandemic that minorities in this nation were disproportionately vulnerable, but the article within the Economist illustrates the full extent of their neglect, and how the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated their suffering. It states, “Data released by [New York City’s] health department on April 6th show that black and Hispanic residents are twice as likely to die of the disease as white city dwellers.” This pattern has also shown up from Milwaukee to New Orleans; and in Chicago, black people are five times as likely to die from coronavirus than whites. The areas in which POC are living are disproportionately affected by air contaminants and “fine particulate matter” (pollution) that gets inhaled by residents, leading to an increased likelihood of death by COVID-19. The government’s desertion of these areas has directly resulted in an excess death of minorities. Many of those who have been put out of work are now living without any form of income as well as the health benefits that their job provided. Economists suspect that at the end of it all, one in five Americans will end up jobless. This might just put a wrench in Mr. Trump’s 2016 promise to make America great again—but will the people give him another chance? I will be arguing that our terrified, traumatized, and grieving electorate will look to a new candidate to lead them out of these troubling times.
In spite of political scientists’ best efforts, it is difficult to predict the behavior of the American electorate. I will pull from political theorists’ works in order to formulate my personal prediction, but we are a nation with a history of close-calls. Achen and Bartels (2016) in Democracy for Realists discuss how disasters of catastrophic proportions lead to a crisis of legitimacy for incumbents. Regardless of the nature of the disaster, whether it was foreseeable or controllable, the people who carry its burden inevitably kick the government. These results are also minimally affected by the incumbent’s quality of response. When people are in pain, and feel lost, they reclaim control by voting out the president who governed over their time of suffering. The authors call this “blind retrospection,” and while I believe that blind resentment will have an effect upon Trump’s turnout, I also believe that those who actively choose to punish him are anything but blind. They are displaced and exposed to a disease that could have been tempered, but wasn’t. The government has failed to enforce stricter social distancing rules, and are thereby prolonging the loss of revenue for the working class. They then haphazardly threw money at the people without accounting for proportional losses. In these unprecedented times we are facing, Achen & Bartel’s theory translates well to our current situation. When national well-being falls below normal levels, as it has now, we will instinctually and mechanically translate our discomfort into electoral punishment. Even if due to circumstance, Trump has failed to build the prosperous and powerful nation he promised. The consequences of unfulfilled expectations will inevitably be felt in his 2020 campaign. Even the most ego-bloated, bulletproof-feigning, hard-balling actors must face their political downfall these days, and I believe that Trump’s will be delivered at the hands of a microscopic infective agent.
Our political actors are key to survival as a functioning democracy. Trump’s inefficient and often inappropriate response to COVID-19’s critical impact on disadvantaged groups will mobilize the electorate to ensure that a more moderate and tenured candidate gets placed into office. People are attracted to Trump’s gritty, casual, and often politically incorrect speech because it displays an air of authenticity (Enli, Twitter as an Arena For The Authentic Outsider), but a blatant lack of sophistication in times of crisis is unsettling. Our current POTUS’s dearth of political experience and overt disregard for the disproportionate suffering of racial and ethnic minorities is now evident in his navigation of the pandemic, and it has the power to remove him from office.