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Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez (left) and North Carolina Senator Richard Burr (right)
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez (left) and North Carolina Senator Richard Burr (right)

How COVID-19 has brought out the worst in Republicans and Democrats alike

From Republican Senators exploiting confidential information to Democrats obsessed with the primary, the worst part of the pandemic seems to be the political…

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A week ago, Anne Applebaum summed up the Coronavirus situation in the United States in a lapidary way: " The United States, long accustomed to thinking of itself as the best, most efficient, and most technologically advanced society in the world, is about to be proved an unclothed emperor.”

And it's hard to find any arguments against it.

Being also one of the largest countries in the world in terms of territory and population, the management of an epidemic with catastrophic projections makes it clear how political divisionism affects more than trends in social networks.

Republicans and Democrats alike have shown the seams when it comes to putting their priorities above those of the citizens, day after day, forcing us to think that this circumstance will unveil much more than a symbolic emperor.

According to the New York Times, there are already more than 30,000 reported cases in the United States, despite the lack of testing protocols, and an estimated 428 deaths from the Coronavirus.

States such as New York, California, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida are the most affected, and the speed of infection is unpredictable when by Monday governments like those of New York woke up with 4,800 new cases.

Meanwhile, the political responses remain derisory.

"They knew"

The bitterest pill for the American citizenry during this pandemic has been the news that members of the Intelligence Committees in Congress knew the projections in advance and decided not to do anything about it –at least nothing that would help the citizenry.

As reported by NPR, Senator Richard Burr, the Senate committee chairman, was aware of the magnitude of the epidemic in mid-February and, instead of taking action on public health, decided to discuss it in private circles and make personal decisions that would benefit his own pocketbook.

"There's one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history," he said, according to a secret recording of the remarks obtained by NPR. "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."

But the issue doesn't stop there.

According to the media, the luncheon had been organized by a non-partisan group, made up of businesses and organizations that donated "more than $100,000 to the Burr's election campaign in 2015 and 2016," and that establish close ties between the private sector and the government of the day.

On the occasion, the North Carolina Senator warned the exclusive members about travel precautions, the possibility of closures in educational centers and an eventual quarantine.

All this before the government had communicated the gravity to the nation.

"There will be, I'm sure, times that communities, probably some in North Carolina, have a transmission rate where they say, 'Let's close schools for two weeks. Everybody stay home,'" he said.

In short, they knew.

Burr never made public comments on the issue beyond reinforcing the idea that the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which he helped write, was up to the task.

Meanwhile, the Senator "sold a significant percentage of his stock, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions," ProPublica reported.

“A week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since,” the media added.

A threat to constitutional freedoms

In the midst of the crisis to control the epidemic in the United States, the government has also been resorting to grim mechanisms.

A Politico report explained how the Justice Department has been "secretly asking" Congress for authorization to "detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies.”

Documents accessed by the media expose the department's requests "on a wide range of topics," such as statutes of limitations, asylum, and how court hearings are conducted.

At the same time, the Trump Administration has emphasized border closures and increased tax cuts to large businesses, as well as reminding us of its power to declare a national emergency, which could increase its range of action.

Democrats and the Primary

Another key aspect in this circumstance has been the development of the democratic primaries, especially in the face of government decisions to impose restrictions on social contact between citizens to prevent the spread of the virus.

Despite the recommendations of the World Health Organization, Democratic Party President Tom Perez did his best to keep the in-person voting going in states such as Florida, Ohio, Arizona, and Illinois.

While the governor of Ohio managed to postpone the elections, other communities such as Florida –which is also one of the states most affected by the virus– conducted the elections normally, which has cost Perez widespread criticism for putting politics above the safety of citizens.

"Reports coming in from IL primary are mind-bogglingly bad: voters being turned away from understaffed polls in droves, totally unsanitary conditions, elderly at extreme risk," tweeted Thea Riofrancos, a writer and political scientist based in Rhode Island.

"Meanwhile Tom Perez and DNC are scrambling to save face. Shows you exactly what their priorities are.”

Faced with states unilaterally deciding to postpone their elections, the DNC has been considering penalizing those states by reducing their delegates.

On Tuesday, Perez tweeted: "AZ, IL, and FL are all voting today. Please remember your health comes first. Stay safe and take care of yourself. Thank you to all the voters, poll workers, and staff making democracy work.”

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