‘Without careful, realistic planning, confidence in the system will fall…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) As workplaces began to shutter last week, toilet paper dwindled, major events canceled and schools extended spring-break weeks to a month, some conservatives wondered how far the coronavirus hysteria would go.
The obvious red line, it seemed, was the November presidential election. Memes emerged, and at least one Change.org petition satirically floated the idea to cancel as a way to spur those on the Left to stop the madness and focus on practical solutions.
But as the days went forward, the coronavirus response grew only more serious and surreal.
Forced closures of businesses and religious institutions, as well as limits on the number of people allowed to assemble, raised grave questions about the suspension of constitutional rights.
Several states, including Louisiana, Georgia and Ohio, made the decision to reschedule their primaries.
Rather, Elias—famous for representing Democratic candidates who lost on Election Night only to find bags full of uncounted, discarded ballots on recount—opined that the virus would increase the likelihood of mail-in voting.
“Unlike prior events, the virus poses a health risk to voters in every state, city, town and village in the country,” Elias wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post on Monday.
“Not only will voters not want to wait in line and file into schoolrooms in proximity to others, but election workers—many of whom are elderly—also may not eagerly sign up to staff polling places where they will come in contact with hundreds of strangers in a single day,” he wrote.
I am getting a lot of questions about the November election. While states can set their own primary days, the federal general election is set by federal statute as the the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. This date cannot be changed by a state nor by the President. https://t.co/jxHCLW4MZ4
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) March 13, 2020
Capitalizing on the Crisis
Among those chiming in with approval was far-left Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Since he’s taking advantage of #VoteByMail himself, I hope Donald Trump would commit to signing my bill into law to help states implement vote by mail through November to keep every American safe. https://t.co/ClEfmnhhL4
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) March 12, 2020
The suggestion to move to absentee voting was one of several ways the Left sought to capitalize on the Rahm Emanuel Doctrine during the coronavirus outbreak: You never want to let a serious crisis go to waste.
With each passing day, a foreboding sense warned that the government’s response to the coronavirus may already have entered into uncharted territory, subject to new forms of outrageous overreach under the auspices of a national health emergency.
Other suggestions floated by leftist radicals included lifting the terrorist-preventing sanctions on Iran (which has been ravaged by the virus), releasing incarcerated criminals, and ending the deportation and detention of illegal immigrants (despite the fact that Mexico has threatened to close its border to keep out cases).
That is on top of the $750 billion in stimulus spending that Congress seems likely to approve on a bipartisan basis, with Democrat wish-list items like abortion funding, free college tuition and a universal basic income all rearing their heads in the spending package.
A Cure Worse than the Disease
But given the disastrous vote-counting efforts in places like California, which relies heavily on absentee and provisional ballots, Elias’s pitch is not likely to go over well with Republicans in power any more than canceling the election outright would entice Trump-haters on the Left.
“A push toward voting by mail will flood postal facilities with a surge of last-minute mail-in ballots. Post offices will have to handle these while dealing with the effects of covid-19 on their own workforces,” Elias said.
“Mail delivery times will grow in the wake of the pandemic, and frustrations will mount,” he continued. “Without careful, realistic planning, confidence in the system will fall.”
Thus, ruling out the Left’s bid to sow chaos and confusion in the election, the question of how to move forward with it remains, very much, the elephant in the room at a time when lawmakers must seek bipartisan cooperation to contain the pandemic.
Among the possibilities more likely to garner approval, one may be to declare Election Day a national holiday and encourage younger people, less vulnerable to the virus’s risks, to become more civically engaged as poll workers.
Extended time away from school could afford ample time for college students and younger teachers to be trained to replace the often elderly, retired poll-workers who may find it necessary to stay away.
Of course, if the virus threat is lingering in November, additional sanitation procedures, such as gloves and face masks, will be essential.
The Ripple Effect?
The health concern is also likely to create other butterfly-effect ripples in the political landscape. For instance, the need for elderly voters to avoid the polls and the presence of younger voters home from college may yield an unexpected boon for Bernie Sanders as he struggles to regain traction in the Democratic primary.
Additionally, new “social distancing” measures could reopen questions of whether delaying the decennial U.S. census could follow. Trump last year abandoned a lawsuit over the inclusion of a citizenship question for the census while facing a tight, congressionally mandated printing deadline.
With Congress likely forced to acknowledge that a postponement is necessary, those lawsuits may yet face new life should the Justice Department decide to press forward.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the reason given by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for including the question seemed overly contrived, but it stopped short of saying that the question (which was included on every census until 1960) violated the Constitution.
At the very least, partisan Democrats seeking to use the coronavirus panic to advance an agenda should be mindful that any attempt to exploit the crisis now for their ill-gotten political gain may very well come back to haunt them in unanticipated ways by setting a dangerous new precedent.