The coronavirus, or COVID-19, I think most can agree is the biggest problem that our country is facing today. As such, the topic has been discussed and covered to an extensive degree. What interests me most about the topic, however, is how it ties into the current political state of the nation. Certainly there is a strong divide across the political aisle today as we have seen great conflict between republicans and democrats, especially with the election. Unsurprisingly the reach of this divide has extended to the issue of dealing with the coronavirus. Whether the argument is about when and where we should be wearing masks, or whether schools and businesses should stay open there exists some kind of conflict between the two parties.
However, when I attended a public town hall meeting via zoom I found that very little conflict existed when talking about these problems. I began to wonder why this was. The conclusion I arrived at was that the sense community present in a small town is ultimately very different from what a community looks like on a national scale. Seeing coronavirus death totals and data is certainly scary and concerning but ultimately numbers do not have the same effects as faces do. What I have come to suspect, and what was consistent with what I experienced with the town hall meeting, is that when people are intimate with the individuals affected, they become more liberal with how they approach and view the coronavirus issue. Such a phenomena I believe could be described as “small town camaraderie”. A liberal approach would likely be effective in dealing with this problem more swiftly so the question becomes if it is possible or not to replicate “small town camaraderie” on a national scale?
Political Makeup of Massachusetts
First, however, it is important to look at the political makeup of my town’s geographic location. Massachusetts is a very democratic state that reliably votes blue in elections. In fact one study reports that “Republican candidates often receive between 30% and 40% of the two-way vote share in statewide elections in Massachusetts”.1 Certainly low republican turnout in Massachusetts is a factor here so we cannot be completely certain that a “small town camaraderie” is the sole reason attitude towards coronavirus has become so liberal in my town and surrounding areas.
However, I think it would be irresponsible to completely dismiss republican presence in Massachusetts simply because it is the minority. Even 30% of the Massachusetts population comes out at around two million individuals, so one should not behave as if such individuals don’t exist. Going a step further and looking at 2020 presidential election results by town we can see that 53 towns in Massachusetts went red.5 As I looked at the data I noticed that many of these towns belong to the same county as my town. Therefore I believe it is safe for us to assume that republican voters, while a minority, still have a presence in heavily demoncratic areas.
Political Party Division
Considering all that has been discussed, it can be safely concluded that liberal COVID attitudes in small towns may possibly be because of republican willingness to bend due to “small town camaraderie”. However, it is not the towns that make the laws. For liberal COVID policies to become possible throughout America we would need to see “small town camaraderie” happen nationwide. Unfortunately, this is not something that has been happening thus far in the spread of the pandemic. We’ve continued to see republican and democratic states acting very differently with the way in which they have handled the pandemic and conservative actions are seeming to have very negative effects. One New York Times article talks about how many republican controlled states rushed reopening businesses and schools experiencing a spike in COVID cases as a result.2
Regardless, this is not to paint republicans as the bad guys; in fact, that is precisely the problem. We cannot expect to have camaraderie if we continue to lay the blame at the feet of one sole group of people. The problem comes again back to the divide between the two political parties; a division that has been getting worse in recent years. To illustrate this one article did a survey reporting that half of those surveyed said they would not be willing to date somebody with opposing political stances.3 Considering how great this divide has become it seems unlikely that we will ever be able to attain a “small town camaraderie” at a national scale.
In the end it looks as though using “small town camaraderie” to help fight the coronavirus will likely be impossible unless the divide between political parties can be narrowed. Such a task certainly seems impossible right now, but perhaps there is hope for the future. In Joe Biden’s speech after being announced president-elect he says “For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”4 Such sentiment may prove to ease the tension between the two political parties and restore a more respectful relationship between them. Perhaps going forward while we make an effort to heal the political divide we can begin to have national camaraderie and fight the coronavirus together.
- Duchin, Moon, et al. “Locating the Representational Baseline: Republicans in Massachusetts.” Election Law Journal, vol. 18, no. 4, Dec. 2019, pp. 388–401. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1089/elj.2018.0537.
- Krugman, Paul. “America Didn’t Give Up on Covid-19. Republicans Did.” New York Times, vol. 169, no. 58736, 26 June 2020, p. A26. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=144247558&site=ehost-live.
- Luscombe, Belinda. “Down the Aisle, but Not Across.” TIME Magazine, vol. 196, no. 15, Oct. 2020, p. 34. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=146332186&site=ehost-live.
- Reston, Maeve, and Stephen Collinson. “President-Elect Joe Biden Seeks to Unite Nation with Victory Speech.” CNN, Cable News Network, 8 Nov. 2020, www.cnn.com/2020/11/07/politics/biden-victory-speech-2020-election/index.html.
- Smith, William. “Map: See How Your Town Or City Voted In The 2020 Election.” Map: See How Your Town Or City Voted In The 2020 Election | WBUR News, WBUR, 3 Nov. 2020, www.wbur.org/news/2020/11/03/2020-massachusetts-election-map.