Time to think about a contingency plan for the election.
It’s possible the last person to figure out the November ballot is set will be Bernie Sanders. Giving up a dream is hard for anybody.
Barring a miracle for Sanders, though, it will be President Trump against former Vice President Joe Biden to occupy the White House for the next four years.
Undoubtedly, in today’s hyper-partisan and divided nation, it will be a spirited contest and one that no one should expect to adhere to many norms. It is clear these two 70-somethings really don’t like each other. We wish we could predict they would apply filters between their minds and their mouths, but that doesn’t seem very likely.
There’s another unique element likely to violate norms in this year’s presidential race.
The COVID-19 fear is sweeping not just America but, indeed, the world. Some say it’s over-hyped and won’t amount to much. On the other hand are the news reports out of places like Italy, where virtually the entire country has been ordered into lockdown.
Public health officials and politicians still are not speaking with one voice, but a couple of things seem clear. Those with suppressed immune systems and people 60-something and older are at the highest risk. They are being advised to avoid crowds and limit physical contact.
If the Italy model comes into play, limitations will be placed on people far beyond the immune-challenged and seniors.
Obviously, the prevailing political campaign model in presidential years involves jet-setting all over the country and drawing big crowds together. So imagine a presidential campaign in which that was discouraged from taking place.
Or imagine a presidential campaign in which the crowds that line up at polling places might be discouraged from doing so. Could people vote online? By mail?
We have no answers, but those in charge ought to be thinking about it. Democracy can’t surrender to a virus.
At the same time, authorities have an obligation to act in responsible ways, setting a proper example if the population truly becomes widely at-risk. The election coming in November amounts to the bedrock of American freedom. What’s the contingency plan to make sure it happens, safely?