Monday, February 17, 2020

Could The Coronavirus Impact Bernie's Election?


This morning I got an urgent letter from the biggest Berniecrat in China-- an America progressive who is a longtime resident there. He was urging me to to forward it to Bernie, his wife Jane and to Faiz, his campaign manager. His concern wasn't so much about Trump using the coronavirus to call off the elections, although that is certainly a consideration. It was generally far more mundane-- and useful-- about how to deal with a pandemic that is effecting daily life in China and, by summer, could be effecting daily life here to-- and on the campaign trail. His concerns are more in line with my own than with the far calmer perspective Reese Erlich urged over the weekend.

My friend's letter was all about how Bernie should prepare with contingency planning. The first part of his letter involved what he identified as potential events meriting advance planning:
1. Collapse of voter turnout.
2. Termination of face-to-face activities including GOTV
3. Government and/or Party suspensions of scheduled votes.
4. News and social media saturation by pandemic news (crowding out political news) for days, weeks or months.

5. Sudden overcrowding of hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units.
6. Economic disruption: (a) interrupted China supply chains; (b) quarantines of Americans.
7. Surge in discrimination against Chinese (and Asian-Americans) as suspected source of contagion.

8. After pandemic peak: (a) China head-start in newly-immune population returning to work; (b) USA xenophobia exacerbated by that head-start. 

These were my friend's suggestions-- who is living in a country where everything seems to be breaking down-- for dealing with that kind of disruption here during the most important election campaign in the lifetime of anyone currently alive. His suggestions:
1. Assign 1-2 people to closely monitor Center For Disease Control and to immediately re-transmit any official recommendations, especially on minimizing physical proximity via door-knocking, crowds, etc.

2. Stock an office in each region with gear for prevention and preliminary treatment.

3. Further prioritize early voting, and publicity about Bernie-positive news (such as “highest-ever number of college students have cast early votes”).

4. Publicize the fact that high medical costs facilitate virus spread. (“I avoided check to save money and then I infected my whole family...”).
5. Publicize the likelihood that, partly because of globalization, no matter how well or badly we cope with this pandemic, a worse one will follow sooner or later.

At the end of last week, Sonali Kolhatkar, writing for Truthdig, explored how coronavirus panic is exposing the pathology of nationalism, pointing out that "for years, scientists have warned about superbugs and other infectious agents borne out of industrial agricultural practices or unleashed by climate change" and how "the fears of a new disease with no known cure that is spreading like wildfire have been the bases of plots for science fiction books and movies... Misinformation about the [coronavirus] and its impacts has been transmitted at lightning speed, fomenting fear, confusion and xenophobia. What we do know is that the virus is spreading fast. In the face of this danger, borders are being closed, flights are being canceled, travel is being banned and racism is rising... Fears of this new disease have sparked many reported incidents of racism toward Chinese people and people perceived to be Chinese. Asian and Asian American students at U.S. universities are reporting heightened tensions, judgmental looks and outright xenophobia."
[H]ere in the U.S. there are deep concerns about whether President Donald Trump’s administration is adequately prepared for a pandemic. Under Trump’s leadership, former national security adviser John Bolton dissolved the National Security Council’s global health security team. That team, according to Mother Jones, was a “group of world-class infectious disease and public health experts,” and was “working on implementing a national biodefense strategy to coordinate agencies in order to make the United States more resilient to the threat of biowarfare and epidemics.”

Trump has additionally lowered the budgeted amount for global health funding. Gostin is worried that “taking away all of this expertise and coordinating function at the White House and at the interagency level is a serious disservice to the United States because we are not prepared.” He pointed out that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also seen its funding for overseas operations severely curtailed. He lamented, “We don’t learn the lessons of history. We just lurch from complacency when there is no disease to panic when there is. That’s no way to be prepared.”

The development and spread of dangerous new diseases are all but inevitable as the past several years have demonstrated. Rather than scramble to respond to each new contagion as it occurs, [infectious disease expert Lawrence] Gostin suggests investing in “upstream solutions” rather than “downstream” ones, such as “preparedness and prevention, and robust health systems in place.” They are “cheaper and better for the public health,” he said. What he is suggesting is antithetical to the rising right-wing populism the world over that has put more faith in strong borders, nationalism and deregulation rather than in cooperation, solidarity and greater investments in safety nets.

As a global health expert, Gostin insisted the most important message he wanted to convey to those worried about the coronavirus is this: “The idea of America First, the nationalist populism, is against everything that we believe in global health.” He explained, “We believe in mutual solidarity, we believe in strong institutions like the World Health Organization and the U.N. We believe in international cooperation. All of those things have been devalued by the Trump administration.”

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At 6:22 PM, Blogger Jimbo said...

1. The "novel coronavirus" will have no significant impact on the Democratic primaries (the GOP primaries are virtually non-existent, of course).

2. If Bernie survives to election and wins, he will probably not win the Senate since he is such a divisive candidate. Which means nothing much will happen in his one term.

Vote Liz! She knows how to get things done.

At 7:37 PM, Blogger Gadfly said...

Well, Jim, within the Dem half of the duopoly world, you batted .500. That's better than batting 1/1024. That should clue you on how to figure out what was a hit and what was a strikeout.

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have expressed concerns before that Trump will declare a national emergency to halt the election and to invoke martial law. This virus would be the perfect vehicle for this to happen.

Thanks a whole lot, Nancy.


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