By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
In the face of a global pandemic like COVID-19, when a country needs a strong government and united nationwide efforts to quell the spread of a virus, the Disunited States of America is doing otherwise.
So far, the US government has responded to the novel coronavirus crisis in a slow, confusing and counterproductive manner. Many blame such failure on the president, Donald Trump, who initially downplayed the severity of the crisis and now does little to curb the spread of the deadly virus. But they forget that Trump is the product of the dysfunctional US system hampered by political infighting and institutional hubris.
New research by three leading US political scientists based on a survey of 3,000 American citizens in late March shows that partisanship is the strongest predictor of coronavirus response. Republicans and Democrats are “hearing different things, forming different understandings and reacting in different ways,” according to a Vox report.
In another study, the Pew Research Center found that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to see the coronavirus in the most serious terms.
Why? The answer is simple. With the presidential election drawing close, only by discrediting Trump and his Republicans can the Democrats have a chance to enter the Oval Office. And without doubt, Trump has not sat still. He has already accused the Democratic Party of “doing everything within its semi-considerable power” to inflame the coronavirus situation.
Such political infighting has to a large extent impaired the US president from focusing national attention on the coronavirus emergency and channeling the massive resources of the federal government to the states in need, not to say the fact that the president does not have the will. Meanwhile, his opposition, the Democrats, spare no efforts monitoring and finding faults with what he and his administration have done, instead of really caring about the health of the American public.
But it seems that many US elites are still taking pride in this partisanship and democracy under the current dysfunctional US system, and refuse to acknowledge the effectiveness of governance in other countries. No country’s governance is perfect and fits all. The world is changing, and we never know when we will encounter a crisis like the COVID-19. Some US analysts believe Barack Obama coped with the H1N1 swine flu in his term better than Trump is doing now. But even if Obama were president today, he might not be able to stay away from the current political whirlpool and do better than Trump.
A country’s ability to reform in a changing era matters most. In terms of reforms, the US is in no way a world example. The coronavirus crisis on US soil shows that US politics has reached a tipping point. Some US elites’ mind-set as well as the US system itself has become too rigid to change. The political system, which has been on the run for more than 200 years, needs some real reforms to change its rigidity. Otherwise, any president, Trump or any other, will be baffled by a public health crisis like we have today. While the US elite write articles analyzing why the US mishandles the crisis, they should give a thought to their system.