The US elections see a dramatic turn as President Donald Trump and the first lady tested positive for the coronavirus. This has raised a series of questions on the campaigning, the future of the Republicans and the altered plans to manage the polls. Under the 25th amendment to the US constitution, the president or the vice-president with agreement of eight cabinet officers and the support of Congress – can ask the vice president to take over as the acting president, in this case, Republican Mike Pence. But the clause also suggests that for the vice president to take charge, the president should be physically debilitated from any injury or ailment, such that he remains alive but cannot even communicate. Right now, if Pence is unable to assume control, then the constitutional powers will be delegated to the speaker of the House of Representatives, here – Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic California congresswoman.
What are the implications for the election and its aftermath?
Considering that early voting has already begun in America, this is a very tricky situation. The worst case scenario involves the death or permanent incapacitation of the candidate before the election, as US can face an unprecedented electoral crisis. Questions emerge like what will happen if the president-elect dies in the lame-duck period when the current presidential term is not over and the next president is officially inaugurated on 20 January? Unlike other democracies, the Americans vote for an individual on the ballot of president, not for a party. For example, there can be voters who do not vote for Trump but are likely to vote for Pence, but since Trump is on the ballot, the votes cannot just be shifted to Pence. It is undemocratic as per the American laws. However, all these are according to the theoretical procedure in US Politics and are very dynamic as less is known about the health of the president.
Trump also relies on his in-person political events to raise cash and create an excitement in the voters to create a ground against the Democratic nominee Joe Biden, but this will now be disrupted greatly. Biden currently leads the trends by 7 percentage points and Trump had a chance to bridge this gap by his campaigning in the final weeks. Before testing positive himself, Trump has constantly mocked the Democrats for their preventive measures and even said, “Every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me, and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
What if Joe Biden also contracted the virus?
Considering that Joe Biden shared a stage with the president just 72 hours before his positive test report, Biden needs to decide if he will also quarantine himself. However, they have maintained that Biden’s test results are negative and he is in constant monitoring. However, if there is any case in which Biden contracts the virus, the party’s national committee will have to meet and formally nominate a new candidate. There are several complicated factors at play here as well, which needs time and proper legislative advice to sort things out.
Can there be any postponement?
The date of US elections is fixed by the law and dates back to 1845, since when the elections have gone through war and crisis. Earlier this year, Trump suggested the postponement of elections due to the coronavirus but was dismissed by his own Republican Party. The law says that the US voters must go to the polls on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November, every four years, and that day is 3 November 2020. To change that, it requires an act of Congress, approved by both the House and the Senate.
The Policy Times Suggestions
- Currently, the Democrats hold power in the House while the Republicans hold the majority in the Senate and so any decision taken at this point will require major collaborative efforts.
- The European markets are opening higher and US stock futures went down by 1% on Friday, following the report of the president’s health.
- If both the parties fall ill now, selection of new candidates and reissuing of ballots will involve the legislation and even the Supreme Court greatly, with major collaborative efforts by both the parties, which seems to be an exhaustive effort at this point.
- There are uncertainties about how the Americans will respond to the disease of the president as we have seen previously, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson saw a sharp increase in his popularity after his diagnosis.