By Denis Bright
Can the politics of hope replace the normal circus of a US Presidential election in these times of public health and financial crises? Is Joe Biden as the Democratic hopeful up to the task against a well-resourced and canny incumbent?
How are things trending on the Twin Fronts? What unchartered scenarios lie ahead before the scheduled Presidential voting day on 3 November 2020?
Coping with the COVID-19 Crisis
The Guardian (9 April 2020) provided useful updates of the COVID-19 Crisis across the USA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) web site in Atlanta provides daily updates of the trend-lines.
While the North Eastern Metropolitan Areas are virus epicentres, there are clusters of COVID-19 around all major urban hubs across the USA.
Graphs of cases of COVID-19 may follow trends established in South Korea and China in the coming weeks after the peak of the crisis is finally attained.
Countries with different health systems may be following similar trajectories.
Perhaps the degree of enforcement of social distancing is a key factor.
Regrettably, President Trump is uneasy about keeping the US in lockdown. The US was a late starter in issuing lockdown directives. The Trump Administration took its lockdown cues from the key epicentre states.
President Trump’s unease is linked to his concerns about the consequences of an over-extended lockdown for the financial welfare of the nation.
The US Financial Crisis-The Times They Are A-Changing
As the vital COVID-19 case numbers are likely to plateau and then to flatten in a few weeks, it is the financial crisis which is likely to intensify (The Guardian 9 April 2020). Perhaps there is provision to defer the presidential and congressional elections if unemployment trends worsen at a time of public health crisis. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first landslide victory in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression came with a voter participation of 56.9 per cent. This was similar to recent voter participation rates in recent presidential elections.
McKinsey Global Institute in New York offers the possibility of a China-led recovery if the pandemic can be contained in the medium term in 2020:
Trajectories for the US economy and its global influence are of course unknown quantities at this stage. The McKinsey Institute does not extend its more detailed US projections beyond the current year.
Unchartered Social Outcomes of Previous Crises
In these times of financial and health crises, it is surprising that the US is turning to veteran leaders on both sides of the congressional aisles.
Old musical folk-heroes are being respected anew even if they maintain some left-leaning agendas as in the 1960s. Perhaps the popular music scene is an ongoing escape from the excesses of centre-right politics now as before.
Like Barry McGuire (Born 1935) of Eve of Destruction fame, Bob Dylan might be still alive to sing out the Trump Era. This is less likely if President Trump gains a second term. The changeover inauguration date in January 2025 is still a very long way off.
From near-retirement, Bob Dylan has just offered a new release on 27 March 2020. Murder Most Foul recalls the social aftermaths of President Kennedy’s (JFK’s) assassination on Friday 22 November 1963 (Full lyrics here).
Writing for MIT Press Reader, literature guru Timothy Hampton of the University of California, Berkley reminds every one of the haunting tragedies that afflict US society over which a cheery popular culture continues to offer band-aid compensations (The MIT Press Reader 3 April 2020).
Social band-aids were needed as high-profile assassinations in the 1960s. Formal politics in the USA tilted to the right while most of society continued its freedom-loving ways in the shadows of a more disciplined corporate society with its enormous and growing military industrial complexes.
The losses of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King within a few weeks of each other in 1968 deepened the wounds against a healthy social recovery from JFK’s assassination. When the Woodstock Festival convened in upstate New York in August 1969, President Nixon had already won by a landslide at the 1968 election. There was no It’s Time Era in formal US Politics as in Australia, Britain and across the expanding European Union.
Writing in The Conversation, Aniko Bodroghkozy, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia summed up the eerie mood across the USA as COVID-19 takes its toll:
But the virus hasn’t stopped Bob Dylan, who, on the evening of March 26, released “Murder Most Foul,” a 17-minute long song about the Kennedy assassination.
Many have pondered the timing. So, have I. I’m a Kennedy scholar, writing a book about how television handled coverage of the Kennedy assassination over a traumatic four-day “black weekend,” as it was called. I’ve also explored how Americans responded to the sudden upending of national life with the murder of a popular and uniquely telegenic president.
NBC News anchor David Brinkley, as he signed off that first night, called Kennedy’s death “just too much, too ugly and too fast.”
The coronavirus crisis may also seem too much and too ugly, though it’s unfolded much more slowly. While a global pandemic is certainly different from a political assassination, I wonder if Dylan sensed some resonance between the two events. Inscrutable as always, he’s unlikely to ever explain. And yet it’s hard to ignore the poignant similarities in the ways Americans have responded to each tragedy.
Ana Swanson of the New York Times notes the switch from trade and investment wars with China to increasing dependence on China for vital medical supplies in the current health crisis:
WASHINGTON — A commercial aircraft carrying 80 tons of gloves, masks, gowns and other medical supplies from Shanghai touched down in New York on Sunday, the first of 22 scheduled flights that White House officials say will funnel much-needed goods to the United States by early April as it battles the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak.
The plane delivered 130,000 N95 masks, 1.8 million face masks and gowns, 10 million gloves and thousands of thermometers for distribution to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, said Lizzie Litzow, a spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Ms. Litzow said that flights would be arriving in Chicago on Monday and in Ohio on Tuesday, and that supplies would be sent from there to other states using private-sector distribution networks.
While the goods that arrived in New York on Sunday will be welcomed by hospitals and health care workers — some of whom have resorted to rationing protective gear or using homemade supplies — they represent just a tiny portion of what American hospitals need. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that the United States will require 3.5 billion masks if the pandemic lasts a year.
That overwhelming demand has set off a race among foreign countries, American officials at all levels of government and private individuals to acquire protective gear, ventilators and other much-needed goods from China, where newly built factories are churning out supplies even as China’s own epidemic wanes.
This sharing of medical assistance from China in a time of crisis is particularly significant. Australia has the green light to respond in a likewise manner (ABC News):
A freight flight from the city where the deadly coronavirus first appeared has arrived in Sydney, carrying 90 tonnes of protective masks, gowns and ventilators.
Tough restrictions on travel in and out of Wuhan, China were only lifted in the last 24 hours, and the city’s airport whirred back into action along with many other transport hubs in Hubei province.
The cargo flight, operated by Chinese carrier Suparna Airlines, arrived in Sydney after 9:00pm on Wednesday, and is the first flight from Wuhan to land at Australia’s busiest airport since late January.
“This flight will be carrying up to 90 tonnes of much needed medical supplies,” a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Department told the ABC.
Readers who would like to promote discussion on this possible change agenda should add their comments in the interests of citizens’ journalism.
The Atlantic (20 November 2013) has offered some trivia from The Wire to assist in your assessment of Joe Biden from a selective focus on his College Years (The Atlantic 20 November 2013). Select quoting from this article would spoil its punch-lines.
Luck will have to be on Joe Biden’s side again if he is to overcome the challenges posed by the political colours on the 2016 US Presidential Election Map. The 2016 Campaign delivered a 304 to 227 margin for President Trump in the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton gained almost 3 million primary votes over Donald Trump and attained 48.2 per cent of the overall vote.
The campaigning style of Joe Biden has yet to be tested against a canny incumbent with almost limitless campaigning resources to communicate with a nation in lockdown. Joe Biden’s ultimate political trial on 3 November 2020 must surely attract some of the silent majority who are not scared off by the long-odds.
Australia is so entwined in the global soft power network of the USA that our interest is imperative. I can recall the exact ABC radio news bulletin at 6 a.m. on that Saturday morning here which informed me of JFK’s assassination. It took years to understand the long-term even immediate consequences. With the assassin incorrectly portrayed as a communist sympathiser at the time, the electorate was already ready to stay with Robert Menzies on 30 November 1963 with his commitments to new F11 Fighter Jets and negotiations to accept the North West Cape Communication base through negotiations with US Ambassador William Battle. Australia was intimately caught up in the right-wing tendencies in global politics within the US Global Alliance.
The guide to form map from the 2016 Presidential Campaign shows the challenges facing my own outsider wager in favour of Joe Biden knowing that President Trump has a knack of mobilising his own support base in those key Swing States like Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania which have the numbers to change our political world through the strange mechanics of the US Electoral College. Building up more progressive majorities in California and New York do help congressional numbers but do not influence the race prize for Joe Biden.
In the Hope of Progressive Change, I choose to Trust in my current assessment of Unchartered Times.
Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.
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