How quarantine fatigue could lead to a Trump victory

The chance is small, but it’s real


Collegian file photo

By Maxwell Zeff, Assistant Opinion Editorial Editor

Biden is so heavily favored to win this upcoming election, the race might as well be over already. However, liberals scarred from the false early predictions in 2016 are holding their breath, afraid to let out that long awaited sigh of relief. As we learned in the last election, polls are probabilities, not guarantees. There’s a few, unlikely, but possible scenarios in which Donald Trump could win this election. If Trump does win, it will come down to this election’s biggest issue, the coronavirus pandemic. The Pew Research Center reported that most voters are not confident in Trump to handle the pandemic, however, that doesn’t mean it’s a weak point for him. A Trump presidency may represent a poor coronavirus response, but it also embodies a reopening of society. Joe Biden is the medicine that we know we should take, but when we’re alone in the voting booth, or filling out a ballot at home, will we? Americans have quarantine fatigue, and that could give Trump the upper hand in this election.

Despite the countless reasons not to vote for Trump, this stands to defy them all. No other issue in American history has ever affected this many people’s health, jobs and ability to have basic human connection like the coronavirus.

Trump is selling himself as the candidate who will open the economy, schools and our society more quickly than anyone else. The next president will ride out many more waves of coronavirus outbreaks, and Trump is more likely to keep the world open when this inevitably happens. Biden, on the other hand, has shown to be the safer candidate around coronavirus, heeding the advice of medical experts. A Biden presidency would err on the side of caution when outbreaks happen, which is undeniably better for the health of our country (and probably the economy in the long run), but this also means it will be longer before people can return to work and make a living. Right now, many Americans are financially unstable, with over 50 million people facing food insecurity. Telling these people to wait for the outbreak to subside will not fare well, and Trump promises a quick return to work. At least in the near future, a vote for Biden is a vote for our health and a vote for Trump is a vote for our jobs.

Here is the inconvenient truth – when you ask people to choose between their livelihoods and their health (as well as that of those around them), they may very well choose their livelihood. This may seem short-sighted but at this point, we’ve been living with the coronavirus for eight months. Many Americans have been cooped up in their homes this past year, and have therefore not gotten sick. They understand that the coronavirus is dangerous, and probably know someone who’s contracted the disease, or even died from it, but they’re also fatigued from a lack of human connection and financial insecurity. This is the new normal. To many, regressing back into quarantine and reclosing businesses is a dreadful proposition. Though Trump has contributed to this elongated lockdown due to a lack of a coordinated federal effort, he currently offers a way out, whereas Biden represents going back into a stricter form of lockdown.

The polls say that Biden has a comfortably large lead on Trump, which should not be downplayed, but it’s important to note that we’ve never had such an election before. There will likely be a historically large voter turnout, with people voting in ways they never have before. More people have already voted in Texas this year than in 2016, with days to go. Figuring out which demographics will wait hours in line to vote, or what kinds of people will mail in their ballots correctly is a mystery to all of us. Not to mention, exit polls don’t work as well when most people are voting from home. Many mailed in ballots will also be thrown out for various reasons, and poll workers will have to work harder and differently than in any other election. Simply put, we’re kidding ourselves if we think we know exactly how this election is going to go down. We should still trust data and polls, but it’s also important to be skeptical, especially in an election with so many unknowns, where the margin of error could be huge.

What aspects of the pandemic will voters act on? On one hand, U.S. unemployment this summer reached its highest rate since the Great Depression. On the other hand, coronavirus has killed more Americans than the Vietnam War. So, which will be more important to voters, their economy or their health? It really depends on who you ask. Trump supporters consider the economy to be their biggest issue for this election, while Biden supporters prioritize health care. For Americans in the middle, who ultimately decide elections, quarantine fatigue could play a big role in who they elect. Americans are tired of being cooped up in our homes and our wallets are thinner than they’ve been in years. Trump claims to have a solution to those problems. There’s a small chance Trump could win this election, and it may simply be because we’re desperate to return to normalcy, even at the cost of our health.

Maxwell Zeff  can be reached at [email protected]