To say the final year of President Trump’s first term has been chaotic would be an enormous understatement. In case you slept through the first six months, 2020 began with the controversial killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. Iran retaliated by launching missiles at American soldiers and, that same day, a passenger aircraft was shot down over Tehran. That same week, the World Health Organization was notified of the novel coronavirus which had become an epidemic in China. One week after that, Trump became the third U.S. president to ever be impeached.
The outlook appeared favorable for Trump after he was acquitted, especially as the Democratic primary candidates revealed great tension within their party and the Iowa caucus debacle undermined the confidence of Democratic voters in their nomination process. But what could never have been predicted was a widespread pandemic, the greatest threat to global public health in a century.
Along with the tragedy of this disease came immediate economic recession and mass unemployment. This is perhaps the most significant impact of the virus on Trump’s re-election campaign, as his strongest selling point was the state of the U.S. economy, which had been booming prior to 2020.
Almost seemingly on queue, at a time when the president of the United States should be unifying the country in its battle against a pandemic, the tragic murder of George Floyd shook the nation. The subsequent protests have resurfaced racial tensions in the U.S. Furthermore, the protests indicate that many Americans are fed up with the status quo, a troubling sign for any public official seeking re-election. The effects of these events are worsened by the fact that Trump is unable to campaign across the country due to the pandemic.
This series of unfortunate events highlights both positive and negative aspects of our republican-democratic system. One negative aspect is the blame that presidents often endure in office for issues they have little control over. For instance, President Trump has been criticized for not locking down the country in February or early March, although he lacked the power to enforce most of those measures and would have likely been labeled an authoritarian. Meanwhile, the more positive aspect of our system is the ability for Americans to denounce and change the status quo by replacing those in power. When people are upset, the have the power to act on their frustration and enact change.
President Trump’s re-election campaign has unquestionably been set back by the chaotic developments this year. But in this time of extreme uncertainty, one thing is certain: the whole country will be watching
to see how he responds to this adversity and if his campaign can recover.