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Five ways the coronavirus could change American politics | TheHill – The Hill



How will the coronavirus crisis affect American politics?

The focus, for now, is naturally on the emergency itself. As of Friday evening, more than one million people in the U.S. had been infected by the coronavirus and more than 59,000 had died, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

But here are five areas where the crisis could have a political impact over the longer term.


Universal health care

The global nature of the health crisis has been a reminder of the United States’ status as the only first-world nation without universal health care coverage.

Additionally, the underpinnings of the U.S. system — where many people’s health insurance is linked to their employment — is under new scrutiny as enormous job losses scythe across the nation. More than 30 million Americans have filed new unemployment claims in the past six weeks.

There is some evidence that the crisis is shifting public views of health care.

A Morning Consult poll in mid-March, just as the crisis was beginning to hit the U.S. hard, found increasing support for universal, government-provided coverage.

The poll found 26 percent of all adults saying it was “much more likely” they would support such a concept and an additional 15 percent saying it was “somewhat more likely.” 

Fifty-nine percent of Democrats chose one of those options, but so too did 25 percent of Republicans. Only 12 percent of adults said the crisis made it less likely they would support universal health care.


Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBig banks are growing due to coronavirus — that’s an ominous sign David Sirota talks Amazon and employee safety Senate Democrats introduce proposal to pay businesses up to K per worker MORE (I-Vt.), a leading proponent of the idea, has asserted that the crisis makes his case. 

In a March op-ed for CNN, written before he suspended his presidential campaign, Sanders asserted that universal health care was vital because people would otherwise be discouraged from seeking medical treatment because of the cost. “When somebody is not treated for the virus, that means the infection can spread to many others, putting whole communities at risk,” he wrote.

Still, there is no guarantee that the coronavirus crisis will move opinions on universal health care in a permanent way. And, even if it did so, it is an open question whether legislation to achieve it could be enacted. 

Republicans, including President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump taps new ambassador to Ukraine Trump announces new pick for HHS inspector general Health official: US should have banned travel from Europe earlier to slow spread of coronavirus MORE, are adamantly opposed to such an idea. And even the much more modest Affordable Care Act passed under former President Obama remains divisive. Forty-two percent of voters think it was a good idea and 35 percent say it was a bad idea, according to a March poll from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.

Mail-in voting

The coronavirus crisis may yet herald a change in Americans’ perceptions of voting itself — specifically, the desirability of casting ballots by mail rather than in person.

If the virus were to still be a danger in November, many people would be reluctant to wait in long lines for protracted periods. 

There are already signs that the nation is warming to the idea of voting by mail. 

An AP-NORC poll released last week found almost 40 percent of adults supported holding elections exclusively by mail — an approximate doubling of the popularity of that opinion since 2018. 

In the same poll, an outright majority — 56 percent — said people should be allowed to vote by mail without having to provide a specific reason for doing so. 

Five states currently hold elections entirely by mail, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah. Several other states permit some elections to be conducted by mail, or allow individual counties to decide to hold mail-in elections if they wish.

Trump has been notably skeptical of the idea, asserting at one point simply that “mail ballots, they cheat…Mail ballots are very dangerous for this country because of cheaters.” Trump himself, however, voted by mail earlier this year, casting an absentee ballot in Florida.

There are some concerns across the partisan divide that mail-in voting may carry a higher potential for fraud than in-person voting. 

But the states that have adopted it have not incurred widescale problems, and the coronavirus crisis could see its acceptability reach critical mass.



President Trump announced on Twitter on April 20 that he would move to “temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” in response to the crisis.

He subsequently issued an executive order but it was not quite so sweeping. It paused green cards from being issued for at least 60 days but it included a number of exceptions. It did not, for example, affect green card applicants who are already in the United States.

Immigrant advocates blasted the move nonetheless, accusing the president of using the crisis to pursue the kind of hard line on the issue that he has long favored.

Some opinion polls, however, suggest many Americans share Trump’s views — at least for now.

A Washington Post/University of Maryland poll conducted from April 21-26 found 65 percent of adults backing the idea of temporarily blocking “nearly all immigration into the United States during the coronavirus outbreak.”

Republicans in that poll supported such a pause overwhelmingly, 83 percent to 17 percent. But Democrats, usually seen as more pro-immigration, were split evenly: 49 percent supporting and 49 percent opposed.


Immigrant groups argue that such results could be a temporary blip in the midst of a crisis, and should not distract from the fact that most Americans think immigration is a net benefit to the nation.

But the nature of the crisis — a threat that began in China and went on to cause havoc across the globe — could yet affect views not just of immigration, but of freedom of movement and globalization more generally.

The social safety net

Could the coronavirus crisis — and the sheer scale of the economic devastation it has wreaked — also lead to a reappraisal of the need for a stronger social safety net in general?

The fact that the nation is experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime shock suggests to some people that sizable changes could be made. 

Businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Amash moves toward Libertarian presidential bid How Democrats can help Biden make the sale Yang sues over New York canceling Democratic presidential primary MORE held out the idea of a universal basic income during his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. In April, Yang tweeted that Spain was adopting universal basic income in response to the coronavirus and that “The US should follow suit.” A Washington Post headline around the same time asserted that “the pandemic strengthens the case for universal basic income.”

Others have asserted that the crisis reinforces the need for paid sick leave — a call that Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDeVos sued for seizing student borrowers’ paychecks  How Democrats can help Biden make the sale Biden allies fear Trump fundraising juggernaut MORE (D-N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Pelosi makes T state and local plea, Trump to resume travel Tara Reade says she felt ‘marginalized’, ‘discounted’ by Democrats who defended Biden Top House Democrat: Tara Reade allegation against Biden ‘needs to be investigated seriously’ MORE (D-N.Y.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisNo men allowed: With Biden’s VP shortlist, women are finally gaining political ground Harris pushes for task force addressing racial disparities in coronavirus pandemic Joe Biden: A candidate with no campaign MORE (D-Calif.) made at a March news conference. 


There are also new questions about unemployment benefits and whether some states lack the infrastructure to get such assistance promptly to those who need it.

But many experts are skeptical that even such a major crisis will fundamentally alter how most Americans view the social compact.

Joshua Clinton, a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, recently told CNBC: “There might be a slight shift, but I don’t think that you’ll see a grand shift in how people think about the structure of the state and the relationship of the state to their own lives.”

Political campaigning

One of the most obvious political impacts of the coronavirus has been on the nature of campaigning.

With mass rallies out of the question, candidates and campaigns have had to think about other ways to reach voters.

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe coronavirus has exposed deep inequalities in how Americans pay for health care Biden asks secretary of Senate to locate Tara Reade complaint The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden addresses Tara Reade allegations: ‘This never happened’ MORE, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, has been largely confined to video messages from his Delaware home and has struggled to remain as central to the national political discussion than might be the case in more normal times. President Trump has been accused by critics of using his press briefings on the crisis as a replacement for the rallies that he can no longer hold.

The Democratic National Convention has already been pushed back from its originally scheduled date in mid-July to a month later. Trump has insisted the equivalent Republican event will go on as planned the following week.

It is clear that the crisis will have a profound effect on this year’s presidential campaign.

But it is harder to imagine other changes — like a shift to virtual campaigning — sticking for good and becoming the norm in future election cycles.

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The politics of a pandemic – POLITICO



Guest host Eugene Daniels talks with national political correspondent David Siders about how, three months in, the coronavirus crisis is simultaneously upending and reaffirming political allegiances.

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Bike Share a Victim of Anti-Urban Identity Politics – Raise the Hammer



Bike Share a Victim of Anti-Urban Identity Politics

Strategy only makes sense if we’re all trying to build on our common values and interests, and the zero-sum politics of resentment are antithetical to common values.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 28, 2020

With 1,000 bikes, 26,000 active members and 350,000 passenger trips a year, Hamilton Bike Share is a bargain at a gross annual operating cost of $700,000. But Hamilton City Council cannot resist the atavistic urge to put identity politics ahead of strategic planning.

Hamilton Bike Share hub at Chedoke Golf Course

After yet another ultramarathon session of ocean-boiling hyperbolic bikeshedding over a project with utterly miniscule costs – we are talking, after all, about 0.02 percent of the city’s annual budget – Council deadlocked on whether to fund the continued operation of Hamilton Bike Share for the rest of the year.

Instead, Councillors voted to spend an unknown amount of money to warehouse the bikes once the system shuts down on June 1. Amazingly, the motion by Ward 3 Councillor Nrinder Nann would have funded the system using money already earmarked for local spending in wards 1, 2 and 3.

That is to say, the councillors opposed to this motion voted to overrule the wards 1-3 councillors spending money from their own dedicated ward capital reserves to keep the program running.

This is a gross double standard and the kind of anti-urban hypocrisy that has been drearily common over the past two decades since amalgamation.

Legacy of Anti-Urban Resentment

The most vocal anti-urban sentiment has been from angry suburban leaders who never wanted to get bolted onto Hamilton through amalgamation (but were happy to have Hamilton subsidize their infrastructure through regional government, of course).

But amalgamation – which was imposed on all of us by the Conservative Mike Harris government – has left the old city subject to the one-way whims and caprices of anti-urban resentment and grievance, which suburban councillors openly embody and shamelessly encourage to this day.

The framing of every issue in us-vs-them terms is deliberate and debilitating for a city trying to build common ground and move forward.

In the face of such grievance-based identity politics, strategic plans don’t matter. Strategy only makes sense if we’re all trying to build on our common values and interests, and the zero-sum politics of resentment are antithetical to common values.

Likewise, the facts don’t matter. This decision isn’t about making the most cost-effective use of scarce resources, it’s about driving a wedge into the body politic and pandering for rhetorical points against the ‘other’, no matter the actual cost.

Nor is consistency a factor. Many of the councillors complaining that bike share doesn’t serve their wards are the same councillors who only agreed to allow it in the first place as long as it didn’t go in their wards.

Stubborn Refusal to Learn and Grow

Facts and arguments need to take root in a worldview to influence our decisions. The angry, anti-urban worldview that drives Hamilton’s identity politics is stony ground indeed. It is the place where so many transformative ideas go to die.

Anti-urban resentment is a failing strategy for Hamilton as a whole, but it works well for the cynical politicians who stoke it. Keeping their constituents misinformed and bitter keeps them employed even as it harms the city as a whole – including their constituents, who deserve better.

On the rare occasion where an inclusive urban project actually goes ahead and is successful, that just makes the aggrieved anti-urban haters even more bitter and resentful. It certainly doesn’t inspire them to reconsider their opposition to it.

For example, how many lower-city one-way dead zones do we need to convert into vibrant two-way people places before the haters finally acknowledge that city streets work better when they are more inclusive?

How many new protected two-way cycle tracks have to fill up with cyclists before we are willing to acknowledge that there is a huge latent demand for safe cycling infrastructure?

Identity Politics Trumps Strategy

Bike Share was widely (by the haters) expected to be a total failure. Instead, pound for pound it has been one of the most successful systems in North America: built and operated on a shoestring budget, it achieved 26,000 active members and 350,000 trips a year.

Far from mollifying the critics, its success just made them hate it even more. Bike Share has had a target on its back since the day it launched.

How do you reason with bad faith? How do you negotiate with malice? How do you build on a foundation of cynicism, grievance and deliberate misinformation? After close to two decades of caring about what happens in this city, I am no closer to a workable answer now than I was in 2003.

This city is broken. I have no idea how we can fix it. But until we do, every new project faces a hurricane of resistance, every existing project lives in existential jeopardy and each tiny step we take upward is on a slurry of unstable land that is itself inexorably sliding backwards.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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Liberals' ability to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny plays into system of 'image politics,' critics say – National Post



OTTAWA — The Liberal government has avoided months of parliamentary scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead using televised daily briefings with the prime minister to further its system of “image politics,” an expert in democratic process says.

The Liberals and New Democratic Party agreed earlier this week to suspend parliamentary proceedings until September 21, equipping Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a “tremendous amount of power over the summer,” said Kathy Brock, professor at Queen’s University.

The decision comes after Trudeau has for months appeared in the House of Commons on a limited basis, instead using his daily briefings outside Rideau Cottage to announce major new spending measures and take questions from the media.

He for sure prefers the Rideau Cottage model

“This government is very focused on messaging and image politics and that meant that it wanted to respond to the needs of Canadians when the pandemic came up,” said Brock, who has served in various advisory roles to all three major political parties over the last 30 years.

“But when they started to face criticism for not acting as quickly as possible, the prime minister turned to the easiest tool, which is having briefings with the media outside Rideau Cottage,” she said.

The approach has been met with criticism by opposition parties and parliamentary experts, who say politicians have not had adequate time to press the Trudeau government on some of its largest spending measures, which now top an estimated $150 billion. They also say the government overreached in an earlier attempt to equip itself with the authority to tax, spend and loan money with almost no parliamentary oversight for nearly two years, well beyond the expected timeframe of the pandemic.

Other observers point out that Parliament would typically rise for the summer months regardless, and that “hybrid” forms of Question Period, which include virtual questions and answer sessions, have continued for the past few months.

“The cut-off in June is not an aberration,” said Lori Turnbull, professor of political science at Dalhousie University. However, she questioned “why there’s such a desire” to close off access to other forms of scrutiny, like private members bills or written questions to Parliament.

Turnbull, like others, has been surprised by the Liberals’ ability to secure the support of opposition parties to restrict in-person sittings of Commons.

“Sometimes I forget that this is a minority government,” she said, “It’s incredible what this government has done. We usually see more push and pull between the opposition and the government.”

The NDP has faced criticism for making an agreement with the Liberal party to suspend Parliament because it allows for the government to sidestep proper scrutiny.

NDP House leader Peter Julian pushed back against those claims in an interview Thursday, saying the deal secured four sitting days in the House of Commons during the summer — a provision that other parties were not pushing for.

“There’s been a lot of exaggeration,” Julian said.

Sometimes I forget that this is a minority government

The NDP opposed a Conservative proposal that would have had regular in-person sittings in the Commons well into June, in which a select group of roughly 50 people would attend in order to maintain social distancing measures. The proposal would have allowed Parliament to exert its full powers before summer break, but Julian argued it would have needlessly excluded the majority of MPs in Canada.

“I think it’s a very Ottawa-centric interpretation,” he said.

A spokesperson for Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez reiterated that all parties agreed to the March 13 motion to suspend Parliament until April 20. The agreement with the NDP allows for the continuation of a special COVID-19 committee that meets several times a week, but is not afforded the regular powers of the House.

“We believe it is a responsible plan that ensures accountability and transparency, and respects public health advice,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.

Candice Bergen, Conservative House leader, said there has been a push for months by the Liberal government to avoid regular parliamentary sittings. MPs in recent weeks had been sitting in-person on a limited basis once a week.

Conservative House leader Candice Bergen.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/File

“I was clear with Pablo that we felt Parliament needed to resume,” Bergen said. “But that was clearly not what the government wanted and they found a dance partner in the NDP.”

She said Trudeau has instead opted to convey the Liberals approach to COVID-19 through the televised briefings at his official residence, where media ask daily questions.

“He for sure prefers the Rideau Cottage model,” Bergen said, adding that media “is not a substitute for the official Opposition.”

Brock, at Queen’s University, said the Rideau Cottage meetings give Trudeau more time to craft his own message on a daily basis, unimpeded, while taking only a select number of questions from journalists.

“It certainly operates in the Liberals’ favour, because they’re receiving media attention and it seems very positive because they’re responding to a crisis,” she said. “But it means that they aren’t getting tough questions to the same extent on other, lesser known files.”

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