"Responses to epidemics have always been politicized."
COVID on the Ballot
COVID, COVID, COVID, all you hear is COVID, the man tweeted, but how could it not be tagged as the COVID election in the plague year 2020? COVID has its place in history now: it’s the $16 trillion virus, and it’s having its second outbreak in the White House, and the country, as the voting gets underway. COVID, striking blindly, managed to read us better than we read the dangers – the danger of death, in the hundreds of thousands in the US by now, and lasting damage, too. It’s testing the idea of the American Century as never before: the old ideal of a tough, generous, can-do go-to democracy, inclusive, outreaching, the leading edge of modern living, and science, and health.
To the long list of unprecedented, unpredictable features of COVID-19, add this one: that we vote our choice for president next week with the anger and anxiety of a plague year burning in our brains. Who will not be thinking as they vote about COVID-19, grim reaper of 230,000 American lives so far this year? It’s the virus that crushed the Trump boom and took over the conversation. But are we voting to lock down or open up, to look back or move on? We’re taking this radio hour as an unsettled moment to consider the history we Americans are making and the history behind it.
Professor at Harvard Medical School.
Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science at Yale.