Ziel: Students, keep the presidential election in mind

Renee Ziel

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has already had devastating effects on the United States population, and people experiencing it will remember it well for years to come, especially the students graduating or coming to college for the first time. Another first-time experience for many students will be voting during a presidential election. This will potentially be halted or otherwise disturbed by what is happening around the country and around the world. 

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The death count of COVID-19 in the U.S. is currently above 50,000 people. Hospitals are running out of both space and supplies, and small businesses are hurting. Several weeks of social distancing have negative effects on mental health.

With all this and more happening, it’s been easy for the people of the U.S. to not think about the election despite it usually being at the forefront of the news cycle during election years. However, the 2020 presidential election is far from over and, unlike social events, cannot be canceled. Since it will determine what this nation’s future looks like, perhaps in a drastic way, we need to keep it in mind in the context of this global health crisis.

Most of the impact can be seen in ripple effects from other sources. It is not the virus itself hurting what could be the most interesting U.S. presidential election in history, but how it’s handled and what else — or who else — it’s affecting.

President Donald Trump’s economic approval rating has remained fairly constant, at around 50% overall. The coronavirus has not changed it much yet, but the stay-at-home procedures that are adversely impacting the economy have only been around for about a month, and the government and the economy are not famous for moving quickly.

Generally speaking, the current state COVID-19 has placed the nation in may not spell good things for Trump.”

If the U.S. falls headfirst into a recession, it’s possible people will turn on Trump, since presidents have long been the general measurement for national success. After all, people notoriously blamed Herbert Hoover for the Great Depression regardless of what he did or didn’t do. How poorly the U.S. economy is likely to fare in the coming months might hurt Trump’s reelection chances.

Trump also has higher approval ratings among older populations, so much so that his approval gets higher the older a voting bloc is. But COVID-19 has proven especially deadly for the older age groups, as people 65 years old and above account for roughly 70% of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths, according to Worldometer. 

However, this particular point may not be as harsh as it seems for the Republican president, since Democratic front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden also polls well with older voters.

The pandemic may also affect the way people vote. COVID-19, first and foremost, has overwhelmed the American health care system. Along with that, Trump and his administration have been criticized for their response, or lack thereof, to the health issues at hand.

This strong combination may make for more voters picking a president that has more all-encompassing health care options and solutions to the current public health situation in mind going into office, which could be Biden. 

Generally speaking, the current state COVID-19 has placed the nation in may not spell good things for Trump. Biden’s challenges are mostly demographic hurdles that existed long before COVID-19 spread, but the havoc the virus has wreaked is directly attacking the current administration. However, there may be a turnaround for Trump in the summer.

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While looking unlikely, if the pandemic resides and things start looking more normal, there could be a preelection spike in the economy or the advancement of a COVID-19 vaccine that might reflect in approval numbers for the sitting president. If Trump’s approval numbers rise at all during such a difficult time, based on patterns already seen, he could have a good shot at reelection.

While these points are not definitive or exclusive to one candidate, they contain elements of what COVID-19 has done to the world and how those things are going to directly impact who the next president of the United States is.

Everything involves politics, and politics involves everything in one way or another, whether it is immediately apparent to us or not. Such a large-scale pandemic, which has hit the U.S. particularly hard, is sure to have equally large-scale effects on a highly anticipated and unique presidential election. Please remember that, and please remember to vote.

Renee Ziel can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @reneezwrites.