Although coronavirus remains the greatest health hazard in the US at the moment, millions of Americans from across the country took to the streets to protest restrictions on movement and economic activity imposed by their governors. Emboldened by President Trump, who downplays recommendations issued by his very own administration and repeatedly calls to reopen the country, protesters argue that shelter-in orders and shuttering of cities infringe on their civil liberties.
A brief overview of the right-wing media’s coverage of the pandemic gives a few clues as to why people are out there risking their own, as well as the public’s health by taking to the streets without observing social distancing guidelines or covering their faces.
Take a look at Fox News, for instance, the right’s most prominent media platform. In the early stages of the pandemic, Fox News anchors and pundits repeatedly downplayed the threat of the disease, and echoed the president’s portrayal of it as a “hoax” concocted by Democrats. As the virus spread like wildfire across all 50 states and began claiming the lives of tens of thousands of Americans, Fox News remained steadfast in its attempt to question the seriousness of the situation and utilise it to score political points for Republicans.
Now, the network’s hosts continuously attack public figures advocating for the prolonging of shelter-in orders, and inundate their viewers with calls to restore economic activity. It’s important to stress that Fox News’ frantic demand to send Americans back to work does not involve increased protection of workers’ rights during the reopening on the economy, on the contrary—its anchors and featured guests bash Democrats like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York who advocate for additional safety nets and financial support to be provided to workers.
But just as important in shaping the right’s perception of the pandemic and the nation’s response to it are smaller news platforms. One of them is The Gateway Pundit, a far-right, conservative news site. Calling it a news platform might be a wild exaggeration, though, as Gateway pundits, such as their former contributor Lucian Wintrich, are notorious for spreading distorted or downright false information and propagating ludicrous conspiracy theories. A quick look at Lucian Wintrich’s Twitter account will demonstrate my point.
Conspicuous in Gateway Pundit’s coverage of the pandemic are the downplaying of the severity of the disease and the insistence that governors’ shelter-in orders are but autocratic decrees that violate Americans’ freedoms. In the article Sweden Resisted Suicidal Economic Lockdown – Now Stockholm Expected to Reach “Herd Immunity” in Weeks the publication disseminated the factually wrong claim that Sweden refused to impose mandatory shelter-in regulations in order to develop “herd immunity” among its population.
Another story reported the debunked conspiracy theory according to which the virus had been concocted in Chinese labs. In the comments section, readers often fill in the blanks left by Gateway Pundit reporters—referring to the virus as an overhyped hoax or regarding its spread as a deliberate sabotage attempt by the Chinese government.
But we would be remiss in writing off platforms such as The Gateway Pundit as virtual looney bins for extremists; such websites are widely popular among millions of Americans who view them as the ultimate conveyors of truth in a media environment dominated by big government and elitist interests (which they ascribe primarily to the left).
In reality, these platforms end up playing into the hands of corporate and elite right-wing interests, particularly in the era of Trump, which saw the merging of various factions of the right into a unified, omnipotent entity. For Trump, right wing media moguls and conservative American billionaires funnelling seed money into these platforms, the goals are similar—maximisation of profit, the perpetuation of unbridled capitalism and the swift resuscitation of the stock market.
What we witness now has arguably nothing to do with coronavirus or public health, and has everything to do with the decades-long attempt by corporate powers and the right-wing elite to achieve political and financial dominance by imbedding their interests into popular conservative ideals of liberty and faith.
People protesting in the streets now are being used as pawns by major corporate, political and religious conservative powers, who prey on people’s very genuine hardship, fear, and mistrust of government in order to expand their wealth and authority. Aided by media outlets both big and small, the right wing elite is orchestrating a most vicious and effective manipulation campaign against the public; one that derails America’s already flawed response to the crisis, increases the likelihood of repeated surges of the virus, and risks raising the number of infections and deaths in the US, and ultimately beyond.
COVID-19 is throwing a wrench in the already-dramatic 2020 Democratic presidential race in the US. With a slew of states postponing their election dates and the candidates unable to maintain their presence on the campaign trail, the road ahead becomes all the more challenging and unclear—not simply in terms of who will clinch the nomination, but also regarding the implications this turmoil will have on the election system as a whole, the morale and trust of the American people and the looming battle against President Trump in November’s general election. How exactly is the coronavirus outbreak affecting the 2020 Democratic primary election?
As the spread of the COVID-19 became an imminent health threat to people across the US, 10 states and territories have announced that they will postpone their primary dates—Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Puerto Rico and Rhode Island—and more are expected to do the same. Six of these states will join the five already scheduled for 2 June, making this date a second Super Tuesday of sorts, with an expected 822 delegates up for grabs on that day.
These changes in scheduling and the transition of the nation into a state of emergency seem to be having significant implications on the race. While former Vice President Joe Biden secured a seemingly insurmountable lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (having won 1,214 out of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination compared with 910 won by Sanders), Biden’s momentum seems to be declining.
It began with Biden recklessly urging Americans not exhibiting symptoms to go out and vote on the last date of primaries back on 17 March (a move for which he received significant backlash). Then, as the US started morphing into one of the world’s epicentres of the pandemic and shelter-in orders or recommendations were issued across the country, Biden all but vanished from the public eye for days. With Trump making frequent (if obnoxious and bafoonish) addresses to the nation on television, Biden’s silence became all the more deafening.
Over the last couple of days, Biden has tried to resuscitate his position; he addressed voters from his basement in Delaware and then gave a televised interview on CNN. Both appearances, however, were underwhelming and largely uncovered by mainstream news outlets. The former VP is facing pressure to step up his game by both voters on the ground and Democratic donors and party leaders who still view him as the only viable nominee at this point.
All the while, Senator Sanders has been galvanising his base of supporters, making the case that universal healthcare and social safety nets for low and middle-income people are absolutely crucial in order to avoid an utter collapse of the nation. Sanders has been holding frequent video conference calls with various leaders and experts, which are live-streamed on social media and have so far garnered millions of views. And although a great many voices in Democratic circles argue that the responsible thing to do would be for Sanders to drop out and endorse Biden, it seems that Sanders’ presence on the scene injects much-needed optimism and energy into young Americans at the darkest of times and crucially centres the conversation around the benefit of the people as opposed to the welfare of corporations.
It seems that the significant upheavals in the primaries have their pros and cons. On the positive side (if one can use the term positive under the circumstances), postponing the primaries and clustering many of them in one day gives residents of more states an opportunity to have a real voice in determining who the nominee will be. Delaying the voting dates also means that polling stations wouldn’t have to be randomly and promptly shut down as a result of the virus, which was the case in Arizona on 17 March and proved to be an absolute disaster.
Yet, the blunt manner in which the race was brought to a halt and the uncertainty prevailing ever since arguably hampered the sense of urgency and dedication that characterised the primaries so far. Voters are in survival mode right now, and may, understandably, pay less attention to the Democratic race, despite the fact that four more years of Trump could exacerbate an already dire situation for most Americans. Furthermore, Biden’s wobbly appearance and his failure to position himself as a source of hope and leadership in contrast to Trump severely injure his candidacy and lower his already slim chances of being able to unseat the President in November.
Finally, this unexpected turn of events shines a spotlight on the serious flaws in our election system, such as the absurdity of spreading out the primaries over months through a process that all but deprives millions of voters of voting their conscience or even participating in the race at all. It also highlights the urgent need to modernise the system and make voting by mail (an option currently offered in a handful of states) a viable possibility for all Americans.
As we battle the grave difficulties brought on by this pandemic, let’s remain engaged in this fateful race and not lose sight of what’s at risk. Now more than ever we must hold our leaders accountable to the task they’ve been entrusted with—caring for the public they represent.