US President Trump and the First Lady testing Covid-19 positive is a crisis that Americans least expected just about a month away from Election Day. After months of practically underplaying the seriousness of the pandemic causing unnecessary confusion among the American public and contributing to a phenomenal 200,000 deaths, the president, who has often refused to wear a mask in public and even mocked his rival Joe Biden for wearing one, has now himself been infected by the virus. This may have significant implications for the upcoming elections and for the US's national security.
At this point it is not clear how serious the president's symptoms are and whether they may become more severe in the coming days. But his sudden illness is having a jittery effect in the already devastated economy and on the public, especially Trump supporters who may now have to rethink their defiance of all the safety guidelines put out by the CDC and the constant rejection of the scientific analysis of the virus. In terms of the elections a great deal of uncertainty looms ahead.
For one thing the president's intense campaigning and visits to various key states will have to come to a halt while the Democratic candidate's campaign may pick up giving Biden an advantage. At the polls Biden has enjoyed a lead over Trump and this may continue as more people become disenchanted with Trump's poor handling of the pandemic that has led to him, his wife and his staffers becoming infected.
But there is also the question of whether the election schedule will have to be changed if the health of the president deteriorates. That would create even more complications as early voting has already begun. Would those votes be counted? If the president recovers quickly which would be a relief to all no matter which side of the political fence, the other issue would be the acceptance of election results by Trump and his supporters if Biden wins. President Trump has continuously implied the possibility of voter fraud, discrediting mail-in-voting which have always been an acceptable method and also more popular with Democrats especially at this time. Now, even his own supporters may opt for this method seeing that the president has contracted the infection after disregarding basic safety guidelines of wearing a mask and social distancing. So if that happens, will Trump and his supporters continue to cast doubt on mail-in-votes and ultimately the legitimacy of the results?
Democrats themselves will be in a dilemma regarding the tone of their campaign now which would have originally included harsher criticism of Trump. Now that public sympathy will tilt towards Trump, Democrats may have to restrain themselves from being overly aggressive in their attacks.
Future debates between the presidential candidates has also become quite uncertain. At this point the fate of the elections seem to rely on the health of the American President. In a country plagued by intense polarisation, deteriorating race relations and the devastating health and economic effects of the pandemic, having its president ill just before elections will push it further into uncertainty. For the sake of the US democracy, of which free and fair elections is a vital component, President Trump's quick recovery is necessary.