Les élections américaines étant terminées, le coronavirus est toujours un problème politique
There was no reading between the lines when US President Donald Trump fronted the White House press briefing in September.
“If you take the blue states out,” he declared, gesturing to a graph of projected coronavirus fatalities, “we’re at a level that I don’t think anybody in the world would be at”.
It was, in some ways, an ominous prediction.
With more than 240,000 deaths and in excess of 10 million confirmed cases, the United States has indeed reached a level experienced by no other nation — and for all the wrong reasons.
In just one week, while all eyes were fixed on the presidential election, new daily coronavirus cases jumped to more than 140,000, an all-time high.
And with almost every metric trending in the wrong direction, it is yet to be seen what bearing new leadership will have on the crisis, or if the nation is able to overcome political fault lines to find a way forward.
While the US may be united by name, its response to the global pandemic has been anything but.
The “blue versus red” narrative surrounding the outbreak was a regular fixture throughout the election campaign — one both sides of the political divide have sought to capitalise on.
Just weeks after Trump denounced Democrat-aligned states for what he described as their “tremendous death rates”, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden maintained he didn’t view the issue through the lens of “blue states or red states”.
“They’re all the United States,” he remarked during October’s presidential debate, before adding without a hint of irony: “And look at the states that are having such a spike in coronavirus — they’re the red states.”
America’s major political parties have moved further apart on most important political issues over the last several decades, says Dr Shaun Ratcliff, a lecturer in political science at the US Studies Centre, and so it is, in many ways, unsurprising that COVID-19 has become a “casualty in this period of polarisation”.
A survey conducted by YouGov, for example, found 86 per cent of people who identified as Republican trusted Donald Trump to effectively handle the pandemic, compared to just 10 per cent of Democrats.
Similarly, 70 per cent of Democrats said they trusted the World Health Organization, compared to just 25 per cent of Republicans.
“And this is exacerbated by certain individuals, Donald Trump being the main one, where he’s frequently downplayed the severity of the virus… and frequently been critical of the idea that large scale restrictions are the solution.
“We know that most voters don’t hold strong views on policy positions… so we look for cues from people we respect…. certainly, people that like Donald Trump, or the Republican party, are certainly going to be paying attention to the messages they’re sending on this.”
Voters view COVID ‘through a partisan lens’
While 42 per cent of respondents surveyed by VoteCast said the coronavirus pandemic was the most important issue facing the country, it would seem it did little to sway political allegiances.
A post-election analysis by the Associated Press has revealed counties with the highest number of new cases per capita overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump (93 per cent) — a rate above other less severely hit areas.