Saturday, 7 November 2020 was a great and remarkable day in the annals of the political history of the United States of America. Regardless of the political inclinations and preferences of people in different parts of the world, every one of us reacted in an idiosyncratic manner to the outcome of the 3 November 2020 presidential election between President Donald Trump of the Republican Party and Joe Biden of the Democratic Party. While some people were rejoicing, dancing, and shouting at the top of their voices in merriment over the victory of Joe Biden, some others were dumbfounded and of course speechless over the loss of Trump.
This column celebrates the victory of Biden regardless of Trump’s denial of reality. This column says Congratulations America, because among other things, you can now successfully fight the raging and ravaging coronavirus (COVID-19) war with President-elect Joe Biden’s golden opportunity.
Fighting the war against coronavirus in the US is of interest to the whole world because what America does has a way of impacting on the rest of the world either directly or indirectly. And more importantly, Joe Biden’s victory is a victory of science over politics in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The mishandling of COVID-19 by the Trump administration was at the root of the devastating impact of the virus in the US. Furthermore, at the root of the mishandling of the virus, was the total disregard of science by President Trump.
Throughout the long period of the US presidential campaign, President Trump organised his rallies in total defiance of COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines. He held rallies without wearing face masks and by his action discouraged his supporters from wearing masks. A number of times, Trump and his supporters mocked those who wore masks. President Trump himself mocked his Democratic Party counterpart, Mr. Joe Biden for wearing mask at one of the presidential debates. Furthermore, President Trump’s rallies observed no physical distancing and his crowd of supporters behaved as if COVID-19 was not real. Indeed President Trump called coronavirus a hoax.
President Trump mocked science in every considerable way. First, he politicised every aspect of the war against the virus by disregarding the advice of US top infectious disease experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.
Secondly, he openly mocked Dr. Anthony Fauci for doing his work professionally accusing him of being there forever and protecting his career.
Thirdly, he made his Coronavirus Taskforce a political body that did only what he wished. Fourthly, he sometimes disregarded or even encouraged the modification of guidelines released by the relevant disease control agencies like the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The intension was to issue a ‘politically correct’ version of such guidelines. His politically (rather than professionally) driven Taskforce was completely rendered ineffective in its operation. The Task Force was even disbanded at a period when the virus was still raging and ravaging the country.
Fifthly, Trump mismanaged as well as subverted the lockdown measures meant to control the spread of the virus, even at a time when New York State was still under the debilitating effect of the virus. The mishandling of the lockdown restrictions by Trump was one of the factors that frustrated the war against the virus in the US.
Sixthly, Trump’s organised couple of events in the White House constituted a super-spreader of the virus. It was no news therefore that he, his wife, Melania Trump, and one of his sons eventually tested positive for the virus. The worst of his culture of disregard for science was when he violated the treatment protocols by first driving outside the hospital to acknowledge cheers from his supporters along the street. Secondly, he broke the protocols by requesting to be discharged from the hospital prematurely, and while back into the White House he also broke the quarantine regulation. He stayed only few days in his isolation room and in defiance to all protocols started work at the Oval Office thereby putting a good number of his staff in serious health risk. It was again not surprising therefore that many staff in the White House later tested positive for the virus including his Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows and some aides to the Vice-President, Mike Pence. This is the story of President Trump’s lost battle in the war against COVID-19.
All this is a sharp contrast to Joe Biden’s COVID-19 safety compliant political campaign. A man who showed in words and deeds that he has great respect for science, his campaign was strictly guided by safety rules and protocols of COVID-19. Mr. Joe Biden wore his face masks and encouraged his supporters to do the same. He organised his campaigns in the most COVID-19 compliant manner including using Virtual platforms to put his messages across to his teaming supporters.
He innovatively and successfully organised drive-in campaign rallies not minding its perceived harmful effects on loss of crowd of supporters. The use of car horns by his supporters to cheer him (as against clapping and shouting by Trump supporters), was a triumph of smart and compliant behaviour over COVID-19 super-spreading behaviour of Trump’s supporters. Joe Biden’s campaign promise of waging a serious war against COVID-19 has already started when he inaugurated a 13 member COVID-19 Task Force on Monday, November 9, 2020.
A golden opportunity to fight a successful war against COVID-19 has presented itself to President-elect Joe Biden. There is no reason whatsoever to doubt his sincerity, courage, and political will to wage a serious war against COVID-19. In deed a golden opportunity has presented itself for Biden to demonstrate to the whole world that the US can put the virus under serious control.
If China and some other countries can wage a fierce and successful battle against COVID-19, then America can do better given her past spectacular achievements in the field of science and technology. Science is central in controlling and winning the war against the virus, and Joe Biden’s respect for science gives a ray of hope that the COVID-19 war is ‘winnable’ under his presidency. Once more, congratulations America for your golden opportunity is here to win the war against COVID-19.
•Prof. Isaac N. Obasi of the University of Abuja, is a Visiting (Adjunct) Research Professor at the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria, (ACAN) ICPC, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.