Covid-19 and Politics: How the Great has Fallen

By: Wai Tun Naing (Left-leaning Moderate)

The world has gone upside down. The virus has gone uncontrolled. Millions have died. And the so-called best country in the world, the United States, has fallen on its knees. But whose fault is that? When we cannot possibly decide which side is responsible without bias, it is evident that politics is the one to blame for the current state of the country.

Ever since the 20th century, the United States has always been famed as one of the best countries in the world, having a high standing and saying in every country’s matter. It is seen as a model by others for everything including politics, economy, education and etc. But since January 2020 when covid reached the US, everything political leaders have done has been to preserve their power or gain power amidst the chaos. Like the stimulus checks, people’s view on COVID-19 became a political statement with some people siding with the current administration–even saying it is a hoax–and democrats more concerned about republicans’ majority influence in the government.
Source: John Hopkins University

Ironically to the U.S ‘s self proclamation as the best country in the world by our current president, our country has done much worse than other countries in handling this crisis. In New Zealand, by the leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the country united itself in an aggressive approach to eliminating the virus. By June, New Zealand has become free from the virus. In South Korea, the government has successfully contained the virus by conducting 15,000 to 20,000 tests per day while nearly having a two party system like the U.S. Even U.S.’s neighbor Canada did a better job than the U.S. in handing this pandemic. Meanwhile in the U.S, the administration cuts the budget for healthcare and CDC, backs anti-lockdown protests and politics only has gotten more intense.
U.S’s Anti-lockdown Protests

“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit” (Arnold H. Glasow) but U.S. politics currently is all to blame. President Trump blamed democrats by claiming that democrats’ impeachment trials against him distracted him from coronavirus. Democrats have blamed Trump for his failure to unite the nation during the pandemic since New York’s outbreak. While it is true that the whole political blame game didn’t help the country, it is hard to ignore that the country’s leader didn’t do much correctly. For example, President Trump hasn’t stopped advocating his scientifically incorrect view on masks against covid and he praises himself for doing a “great” job, ignoring the death toll of around 137,000 Americans. Another piece of his ignorance would be his statements that deaths by suicide during quarantine would be higher than death by covid which has now proven to be wrong. When the entire world is on lockdown to stop COVID-19, he supports anti-lockdown protests which have also become the covid hotspots.

Like little kids fighting over a toy, democrats and republicans fought as there is not a plague running loose in the country. No one in our political system did anything right during this crisis and no one is doing a “great” job at all since the country is on the verge of collapsing. We don’t have the “best” mortality rate and we are not even sure if this country is gonna survive this crisis. This is no longer the time for politics but the time for us to unite regardless of our political opinions. So, please wear a mask because it is not a political opinion but a way to show that you care about others and protect your loved ones.


Rebuttal 

By: Andrew Taramykin (Progressive)

There’s an old adage that goes, “If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of Congress?” The cynical wisecrack has been an American political mantra for about a century (despite its clear ignorance of Latin derivatives). Blaming the government for our ills, and more particularly, blaming partisan gridlock, is nothing new. 

Party politics, although one of our favorite national boogeymen, is not solely to blame for America’s failure to respond to COVID-19. It is worth noting that congressional leaders have been more cooperative than we typically expect them to be, passing multiple coronavirus response packages (H.R.6074, H.R.6201, H.R.748, and H.R.266) and–at the time of writing–actively negotiating with one another. While the merits of these bills can and should rightly be critiqued, it cannot be denied that they were all passed by a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. Nearly a third of Republican governors have implemented mask mandates, a policy far more popular among Democrats that has begun gaining traction among Republicans per a recent Axios/Ipsos poll.

What, then, is to blame for the failure of the wealthiest country in the world to contain a contagious disease outbreak? The administration’s catastrophic (and repeated) attempts to ignore the virus are reminiscent of when President Herbert Hoover declared “the fundamental business of the country…is on a sound and prosperous basis” after the economic collapse of Black Thursday. The administration alone, however, is not solely responsible for the personal behavior of American citizens, nor the systems that have been in place in our country for decades. In that regard, the pandemic has exposed two intrinsically-related, fundamental flaws in American civic life. 

The first is personal unwillingness to follow rules and regulations, even for the sake of individual and public welfare, embodied by the anti-mask movement. This unwillingness is predicated not only on an American ideal of individualism over collectivism, but on a profound lack of trust in government and fellow citizens. Crumbling faith in institutions, which often precedes grave democratic backsliding, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; when Americans don’t trust authority, they won’t follow guidelines, and when they don’t follow guidelines, plans fall apart. In a liberal republic, the government is only as capable as its people allow it to be. If we expect it to fail, it will meet our expectations.

The second flaw exposed by the pandemic is a government and economy crippled by its lack of social safety net. The country’s most glaringly obvious failure in this regard is our lack of national public healthcare, which would have been instrumental not only in preparing for and responding to the outbreak, but in ensuring that our most vulnerable communities were protected. The United States failed on both fronts, as our response was haphazard and the pandemic wreaked havoc on those without access to affordable healthcare. Furthermore, record-high unemployment ensued as commerce ground to a halt, and economists predict 3.7 million jobs and counting that were lost won’t come back. Despite this, the U.S. economic response to COVID-19 has been far less favorable to workers than those of other developed countries. At the time of writing, Republican congressional leaders are proposing cutting unemployment benefits to just $200 per week, which is the equivalent of $5/hour over 40 hours; that’s well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, which itself is less than half of the estimated living wage, according to MIT.

A fiercely polarized political climate has put our divisions on full display, but that climate is merely a symptom of a deeper systemic rot. If America is to emerge from the pandemic on her feet, we’ll need more than a return to civility. We will need to restore trust in our republic by focusing on the social and economic needs of working Americans, not only during this present crisis–but always.

This article has been factchecked and edited by the editorial team of Next Publius. We do our best to minimize cherry-picking of data, and we try to include multiple sides and opinions on any given topic. We recognize that it is often impossible to eliminate all biased language and data in their entirety from an article, especially when the research and discourse around certain topics are slanted in favor of a particular stance. We also recognize that authors and editors have their own fair share of biases. To combat this, we identify contributors’ affiliations and political leanings at the top of each article, and we provide other interpretations, opinions, and rebuttals beneath them. Read more about Next Publius’ mission here.

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