Division in the US Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
The US remains the worst-hit country by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and many of its performances are almost confusing and unrecognizable to the world. It has the highest numbers of infections and deaths in the world, which contrasts sharply with its most advanced medical technology and most abundant public health resources in the world. Instead of providing support and proving its global leadership, the US has become an open spoiler of global cooperation against COVID-19. This is exemplified by the US’ announcement of its withdrawal from the World Health Organization.
Although the vaccine developed by a US company passed Phase-III clinical trials at the earliest, adding courage and hope to this battle, the efficacy of the vaccine is yet to be tested and cannot compensate for the international community’s unprecedented disappointment toward the US.
Many Westerners blame the Trump team for US’ failures this year. Such a conclusion is way too simple and superficial. Although Donald Trump lost the US presidential election, he still won the support of nearly half of US voters. Therefore, the performance of the US this year is not only a mark made by the Trump team, but also a reflection of the failure of the US political system in a crisis. It is the result of the long-term accumulation of problems in the US’ political operations and its lack of self-reformation.
Besides, as 2020 is the election year in the US, winning the election is an overwhelming task for both parties. Its importance has been put above the urgency of immediately controlling the epidemic. Just like other Western countries, the US’ way of social governance, operations and the American people’s lifestyle all have weaknesses that are incompatible with the COVID-19 fight. Taking strong action against the epidemic requires a huge political commitment that is not encouraged by the US campaign rules and culture, so it is inevitable that the Trump administration would adopt a campaign strategy that focused on “developing the economy” but ignoring the fight against the epidemic. Even if the Democrats came into power, they would probably adopt the same strategy.
In Europe, although some governments have been more sophisticated in their attitude, they have not taken substantial measures to contain the coronavirus. The paths taken by the Europeans and the Americans are fundamentally the same. Statistics on infection and death rates are also similar on both sides of the Atlantic.
However, there are certainly differences between the US and Europe. European countries are not big enough to fight COVID-19 alone, and the European Union lacks the ability to coordinate its member states to turn Europe into a unified battlefield. As a result, Europe’s demise is almost inevitable.
The US should have been large and capable enough to set its own example. But its situation is as bad as that of the EU, due to the deep-seated social division and guiding role of its election system on government actions. In an election year, what is most important for the president who seeks reelection is to not leave any subject of ridicule to his opponent. If he makes a mistake first, insisting on the mistake is much safer than correcting such a mistake.
The US system is forcing the nation to embark toward the extreme. As a result, the COVID-19 fight and the foreign policy of the US this year are odd. The initial failure of the country’s COVID-19 fight has become the basis of its national path for the whole year. The more wrong paths the US takes, the more it sticks to it. The US will have to pay the highest costs it can bear to correct such mistakes.
The assumption that the Republican Party is absolutely wrong and the Democratic Party has the ability to correct it has never existed within the design of the US electoral system, nor will it become a reality. The election slogan of the Democratic Party runs contrary to that of the Republicans. It is hard to say to what extent the US can correct its mistakes or to what extent it will continue its extreme games this year.
Even the presidential power transfer this year has witnessed unprecedented disorder unseen since the founding of the US in 1776. Even until now, Donald Trump still does not admit his defeat, and his attitude is backed by many voters. This is the result of severe social division.
Social division will lead to the breakup of morality and rules. Eventually, the country will recognize only its stance rather than right or wrong. The failure of the US this year stems from its deep scars within. Even its allies will be puzzled on how many problems the change of parties can solve. As it is still uncertain to what extent the US will correct its ways, the country’s path four years later will be even more uncertain.