Across the Pacific while campaigning to choose who runs against whom in the coming November presidential elections, one party, lacking substantive debate on matters that affect the electorate across several demographics, is using the COVID-19 pandemic as a campaign issue.
Firing vicious broadsides against the incumbent is easy as in any campaign that seeks change. It’s simply a matter of targeting current realities using promises as ordnance. It’s like using a vision of the future to snuff out the present.
COVID-19 has however made such partisan attacks even easier. There is nearly nothing about the COVID-19 pandemic that can be seen in a positive and hopeful light at this stage of the pandemic’s outbreak. That’s one factor.
The other factor is the collective uncertainties about COVID-19. Few are known and the prospects of a solution to confront what little is known are fewer still. Unfortunately the current toll demands immediate solutions. Given the equation that matches promises as counterpoints to a dim present, then here is a situation where the promises do not provide much comfort much less answers.
The combination of these two factors synergizes to create a third that is far greater than the sum of the first two. These produce across the board fears, anxieties and in some cases, helplessness and depression.
There are many more that can be added to this toxic witches’ brew that can be boiled in along with a dash of arsenic and cyanide, mandrake and pangolin scales that make for an infernal soup politicians can feed a fear-numbed public. See where any move by any political leadership, whether in the United States, Europe or even here, in the Philippines, has been an easy target.
Given the almost complete lack of any positivity, whatever measures are taken by governments to protect their constituents from COVID-19 are spun politically and are employed against incumbents regardless of merit and validity. It is as if nothing that governments do is right.
Let’s see this in our United States model and then see it reflected in our own Filipino neighborhood.
With little known about COVID-19 the United States imposed a blanket ban on any travel between the US and China. The opposition labeled that as racist and xenophobic. And yet as weeks rolled on and COVID-19 turned into a pandemic, the same opposition then says that the closure of borders and the ban on travel were not quick enough.
In the Philippines the same strain of politicking was running through the veins of the political opposition as they giddily criticized the administration for pussyfooting on imposing a travel ban. In nearly the same breadth these same opposition voices were screaming bloody hell that our ban included COVID-19-inflicted countries that hosted Filipino workers.
In these two foregoing instances, politics has no place in criticizing government’s measures, whether slow or quick, xenophobic on the surface or deep-seated in our culture. That any measure would be experimental if not bungling is understandable. Remember that COVID-19 was in its early days, and still is today, three to four months hence, essentially a moving, disembodied, fluid and largely unknown and invisible killer.
Unfortunately, partisan politics is worsening the COVID-19 pandemic as politicians from both sides of the divide employ the pandemic and their bias, as well as their underlying attempt to pursue their power grabs, in a continuous campaign that has little to do with public health and more to do with political ambition.
Quarantined and confined to an increasingly cramped universe of cellphone and computer screens, the opposition as well as self-styled critics with lots of time on their hands, fingers itchy and dying for the next Viber, Instagram or Facebook post, has succumbed to Parkinson’s — the law not the disease.
Rather than explore COVID-19, reading half-read books or binge-watching Netflix, they’ve pathetically focused on the differences and similarities among the personalities behind Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Rodrigo Duterte.