NO EASY TIME
Coronavirus begins to impact upon the 2020 Presidential Election cycle
Monday, March 16, 2020
by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following piece was posted before the news that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen almost 3,000 points on Monday 16 March, as well as before the news that tomorrow's Primaries in OHIO would be cancelled per an emergency order by the Public Health Director in that State.
It was one heck of a week: the veritable cascade of only recently improbable events during that time period that greatly altered things as we once knew them proved as breathtaking as it was ever surprising...
no, I am not here writing of the events of this past week; instead, I here refer to those events that had changed the political landscape within the Democratic Party presidential nomination contest, of which I had only just written about last week (indeed, my own so taking a proverbial "deep breath" thereafter, was actually titled 'Well, that was quick!'):
former Vice-President Joe Biden's must-win in South Carolina back on 29 February-- followed by the departure from the race of former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg the next day, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar but a day later; then Joe Biden not only catching up to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, but surpassing him, in total Delegate Count come 'Super Tuesday' the next day-- followed by the departure from the race of former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (who had only just fully joined the fray) the following day, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren the day after that: all this leaving but two leading Democratic Party presidential contenders still standing- Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders- to fight on into, if necessary, the ensuing Primaries, beginning with those in six States on Tuesday 10 March.
How long ago even a mere week ago, when my immediately previous Commentary was posted, now seems in retrospect!
Coronavirus had, of course, already well been the news at the time voters in the Palmetto State went to the polls to, at least for most of them, save Joe Biden's presidential campaign from itself at the end of February; even the potential economic impact of the virus here in the United States was already being (however still dimly) seen by that point:
the Dow Jones Industrial Average (the venerable 'Dow') had only recently reached a record high 'close' of 29,551- on 12 February (the day after the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, by the way)- and, as late as 21 Feburary (the eve of the Nevada Caucuses, at this moment now seemingly the "high water mark" of the Sanders campaign [pending future events yet unseen, of course]), it had closed less than 2 per cent off that mark. But then the index began to tumble: by the end of the following week, on the eve of the South Carolina Primary that itself would begin to alter the Democratic presidential nomination 'landscape', the Dow had dropped to 25,409.
During the following week- that of 'Super Tuesday'- the Stock Market here in America certainly had its ups and downs (it actually would finish, come Friday 6 March, up for the week by 455 points!); however, beginning with the new workweek the following Monday, each day was to be a "wild ride" for Investor Capitalism: down 2013 that day; up 1167 the next (while voters went to the polls in the 10 March Primary States); down again 1465 on Wednesday. And, as all this was going on in Wall Street, the 10 March Presidential Primaries revealed the current standings- within the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination- of former Vice-President Biden and Senator Sanders; it was almost all bad news for Sanders:
for Biden won big (as was expected by then) in Mississippi, shutting Sanders out from any statewide delegates (leaving Sanders with only a delegate apiece from each of 2 of the Magnolia State's 4 Congressional Districts); Missouri was not quite as big a win for Biden, but big enough: Biden outscoring Sanders roughly 2 to 1 in delegates. But the biggest "tell" of the evening, as returns came in, was Michigan where, four years earlier (and at around the same time of year), Sanders had most truly launched what, up till then, had been a mild challenge to presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton into a serious battle over the 2016 Democratic nomination with a narrow win in the Wolverine State; this time round, in 2020, Biden clearly bested Sanders and was already able to well pad his lead in Delegate Count with only the delegates he got out of just those three States.
Meanwhile, the three Western states voting that day- Idaho, North Dakota, and Washington- had once been Sanders-friendly territory in his battle with Hillary Clinton back in 2016; but, for 2020, rather than holding caucuses (a Delegate Pledging format in which Sanders had generally done well four years ago), they each would be holding Primaries (although North Dakota's was Party-run, with many fewer polling stations as compared to the number of local precincts used in a State-run election: thus, it was something of a hybrid of a caucus and a Primary, without all the actual caucusing). Sanders would win North Dakota (where a small delegate pool, however, only gave Sanders an 8-6 advantage over Biden), while Biden would win Idaho (but here, again, the delegate pool was relatively small: in the end, Biden merely erased the +2 for Sanders in North Dakota with a +2 of his own in Idaho's delegate allocation)...
thus, the second big "tell" of the evening while watching the returns: Washington State, in which- to all intents and purposes- Biden and Sanders ended up in a statistically significant tie (and this in yet another State in which the Vermont Senator had done well in caucuses four years earlier). All in all, then, it was a very good night for Joe Biden, and a rather bad night for Bernie Sanders, as Biden had roughly doubled his lead in overall Delegate Count now coming out of 10 March.
But there were already strong hints of a possibly bad time for all the rest of us here in America, as both Biden and Sanders abruptly canceled rallies planned that evening (at the request of Mike DeWine, the Republican Governor of Ohio [where these rallies were each to be held]) in the wake of increasingly negative Coronavirus news: Sanders simply went home to Vermont without publicly speaking; Biden, on the other hand, spoke briefly to the cameras inside a mostly empty National Constitution Center near Philadelphia's Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell (not all that far from his own home State of Delaware).
It was, if only now looking back, something of a portent of all that was so soon to come:
the cascade of uncontrollable events related to the Coronavirus outbreak here in America began to accelerate on Wednesday 11 March: headlines such as 'Coronavirus conference canceled due to Coronavirus' (which elicited something of a nervous chuckle) that morning mingled with the news that colleges and universities across the country were already making contingency plans to switch over to Remote Learning via online telecommunications platforms, while more and more businesses were already switching over to 'Work From Home' status (for those employees whose jobs allowed them to do so, of course; if you happened to be a factory worker running machines or, say, a delivery truck driver, working from home was simply not an option-- where bars and restaurants are closed, as has been done in at least a few States this past weekend in response to the virus, the servers and bartenders can't possibly work from home: nor can those who pick up the garbage or curbside recycling)...
but the big 'WOW!!!'s were yet to come from the worlds of ethnic culture and sports.
Following the lead of Dublin in Ireland itself, Boston (arguably, one of America's most recognized Irish cities) canceled its St. Patrick's Day Parade; no sooner had that information been digested came the news that the National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] would be holding all its Winter Sports tournaments (including 'March Madness', the national Men's and Women's basketball tournaments, the most popular spectator sporting event of this time of year here in the United States) without fans in attendance (in other words, it would all be "Made for Television"). However, later would come the biggest 'WOW!!!' of that day: the bombshell news that after at least one of its players had tested positive for Coronavirus, the National Basketball Association [NBA] would be suspending its remaining season of games for the duration.
The "hangover" from all this news- along with a presidential address to the Nation from the Oval Office that produced, at best, a rather mixed reaction (the failure to declare a National Emergency therein having been most glaring)- could clearly be discerned when, immediately after the Opening Bell on Thursday the 12th, the Stock Market fell 7%, triggering a so-called 'circuit breaker' that halted trading temporarily. This halt came so quickly that nearly 1/4 of the firms on the S&P 500- an index of the stock performance of 500 large American companies, regardless of Exchange- had, at the time, yet to trade a single share that morning! The Dow would end up shedding 2353 more points that day.
Meanwhile, the "hits" just kept on coming throughout Thursday: the National Hockey League followed the lead of the NBA (with which many of its teams share arenas) and suspended its season as well; Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball essentially aborted their seasons before they even got underway (Baseball simply ending its Spring Training in Florida and Arizona abruptly); finally, the NCAA decided to abandon its "still on television, but without fans in the stands" policy and canceled its national Winter Sports tournaments altogether (this after individual college Conferences had already gone about canceling their own tournaments [which would determine which schools would be playing in the national tournaments]- at least one doing so right in the middle of a basketball game!)
Other venerable sports events also went down: for instance, the Boston Marathon and the Masters golf tournament both postponed their events (each scheduled for April) indefinitely. Meanwhile, Sports is just another form of entertainment after all, and the Entertainment industry began to suffer: besides the news that actor Tom Hanks and his wife had tested positive for Coronavirus while in Australia, it was announced that 'the Great White Way'- Manhattan's Theatre District' primarily along Broadway in Midtown- would be going dark until at least 12 April. Public and private schools joined the Nation's colleges and universities and began to also switch over to Remote Learning, first on a district by district- or even county by county- basis, then later (in many cases) State by State, while State Governor after State Governor after State Governor declared States of Emergency within their own jurisdictions as the day wore on.
Friday the 13th began with something of a pall hanging over it here in the United States: the Stock Market rallied at the start, then floundered throughout the day (although always staying above the previous day's close) until President Trump appeared in the Rose Garden of the White House that afternoon with Vice-President Mike Pence, the leading representatives of the Coronavirus task force that had been set up earlier, and the CEO's of many firms with various and sundry connections to the medical and/or pharmaceutical industries. Among other things, more extensive testing for Coronavirus (a hitherto intractable issue for the Administration) was pledged and, with the Trump Administration seemingly trying its best to gain control of the situation (the President finally issuing a National Emergency declaration, for one), the Stock Market rallied for good and closed at 23185, just 368 points below where it had closed only two days before...
however, as of this typing, it cannot of course be known just what next week might yet bring. The Federal Reserve has, just this past weekend, lowered the prime Interest Rate precipitously: too little too late? Just right? Or much too much, leaving little leeway for future intervention should there be further economic and financial disruption? The following days, and weeks, alone will tell.
But you all don't read The Green Papers for social, cultural, or even economic commentary from me (unless it can be, more or less, directly related to either the political/electoral or constitutional/legal issues- whether current, or historical- with which this website far more normally deals), so I will now close this Commentary with what the potential effects on each Democratic Party presidential candidate might be as a result of the Presidential Primaries being held this coming Tuesday 17 March:
Assuming that Bernie Sanders is in it for the long haul- if not all the way to the National Convention in Milwaukee this summer, then at least for some time to come; that is: the Vermont Senator didn't simply want at least one more shot at the former Vice-President in last night's nationally televised debate before leaving the race, then it is rather hard to see where Senator Sanders might soon turn in order to mitigate the 'death by a thousand cuts' a two-person race for the Democratic presidential nomination seems to have now become for him the rest of the way.
The big delegate prize up for grabs this Tuesday is in Florida, and the Sanders campaign seems to have done much, over the past several weeks (what with Sanders's comments praising at least some of what the regime of the late Fidel Castro did in Cuba, or accusing the so-called 'Israel lobby' of bigotry), to alienate many of those who tend to vote in Democratic Primaries in the Sunshine State: add in the many more elderly voters living in Florida during their retirement who might see 'Medicare for All' as at least a potential threat to the solvency of current Medicare for seniors and one cannot see the Sunshine State as a Sanders-friendly jurisdiction.
Two other States voting on Tuesday are Ohio and Illinois (each with a delegate haul not all that much less than that in Florida), both demographically analogous- if not actually similar- to Michigan: at this time, can anyone really expect these two States to vote all that much differently than had the Wolverine State? Arizona, thereby, seems the only State in which Sanders might make a strong stand (perhaps even one a la that made by Joe Biden himself in South Carolina: one in which, just as in neighboring Nevada, Sanders might hope for a big boost from Latino voters in the Grand Canyon State as something of a political "firewall").
Behind all this, however, still lingers the specter of Coronavirus: Georgia, originally scheduled to hold its Presidential Primaries the following week, has now moved them to mid-May; in this regard, the Peach State is following the lead of Louisiana, which had already moved its Presidential Primaries (originally scheduled for 4 April) to mid-June (this last date, by the way, is outside the "window" for Delegate Selection Events adopted by each of the Major Parties, so it is likely some sort of accommodation will have to be made for such a thing by both the Democratic and Republican Parties, especially if more States yet to vote end up following this same trend should Coronavirus still prove well short of abatement in the coming weeks)...
in addition, Wyoming had done away with in-person caucuses, originally scheduled for later this week, in favor of a week-long ballot drop-off (similar to that which was only just used, ancillary to mail-in balloting, in Washington state) as March becomes April.
Putting aside what might, or might not, transpire on Tuesday 17 March, the whole manner in which the presidential nominations are formalized over the next few months (perhaps right up to the National Conventions themselves-- assuming, if only for the time being, there even are such Conventions held!) may well end up greatly altered by how Coronavirus might yet continue to spread throughout the United States...
yet more to watch for as this 2020 US Presidential Election cycle proceeds apace!