OPINION: COVID-19 Shows we must hold elected officials to a higher ethical standard.

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Ethan Hunt

Not since the Cold War era has the president of the United States’ ability to play God been so clearly on display to the American people. Every president in our nation’s history has chosen if people live or die. For many years, that decision has been in regard to America’s enemies. However, this pandemic has put Donald Trump in a position in which his decisions will affect whether or not Americans will live or die.  

This predicament brings to light a facet of politics that faded in recent years: the personal character of politicians. Crises throughout history have revealed the true colors of everyone, from the average working person, to leaders of state. This crisis is no exception; it has revealed those among us with strong self-preservation instincts, and those with a more empathetic nature. Simply go to a grocery store to see this on display. 

As politics become polarized, the character of politicians is less important. We, as a nation, have become more concerned with what color tie our elected officials wear, than we are with what kind of person they are. The widening gap between the parties has compelled both sides to dig in their heels with their team’s personal nature, claiming the other’s is dirtier, less moral, less just and more self-serving. 

This crisis has shown us both sides are right, and we are paying the price. Governors of both red and blue states are in a bidding war for life saving equipment. States with more money are driving up prices and forcing out those with less. 

Along with this undemocratic situation, politicians are failing to prioritize the saving of lives. Florida Governor Ron Desantis did not issue a stay at home order for his state, until April 1st endangering his constituents, but allowing for beachfront businesses to profit for an extended period of time from spring breakers. Prior to the widespread knowledge of the outbreak Senator Richard Burr, N.C. and Senator Kelly Loeffler, G.A., both sold millions of dollars worth of stock after hearing secret coronavirus briefings which detailed the potential severity of the outbreak.

Whether the previously mentioned politicians’ responses to the pandemic will affect their reelection hopes is yet to be seen. The fact that the many of the poorer responses to the pandemic have come from Republicans is not of importance here and I do not wish to alienate anyone by insulting their team, and teams they are. For only in sports is winning the game the ultimate goal. The game in the U.S. is not winning what’s best for the American people, but the election. One such game is due to be played soon, the presidential election.

As this crisis unfolded, Trump varied in his responses, moving from denial, to more denial, to conceit and backpedaling. The president was initially resistant to any shutdown, with the upcoming match forefront in his mind, the current state of the economy at the time guaranteed him a slam dunk. The number of infections was low, inconsequential. As he stated many times, there was no cause for alarm. Or was there? COVID-19, although referred to as a novel disease, had already ravaged China, Italy and many other European countries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading health professionals warned Trump that this disease could be just as devastating as it was in those countries, if not more so, to the United States. This was a gamble Trump was willing to take: keep the country open, the economy pumping, preserve his slam dunk, and hope that by miracle or fate, the disease would disappear. 

Unfortunately, for the American people, he bet wrong. On March 31st, Trump announced in a press briefing that Americans should expect 100,000-200,000 deaths from COVID-19. Although recently those numbers have been adjusted and lowered, the expected number of deaths is still in the tens of thousands. 

 I am not here to bash Trump. However, those who support Trump, will most likely take these words in a similar way a Cowboys fan would take someone rubbing their face in a loss. Anger, excuses and blame shifting. “Screw you, the referee didn’t call that obvious pass interference, it was raining, and Obama cut funding to the CDC.” 

It may all be true, but either way, you lost. 

I am not insulting your team. I am not saying that if Trump was a Democrat he would have had a better response. I am calling into question the moral character of our elected officials, including Trump. This crisis is an unfortunately harsh reminder that the president of the United States, and to a lesser degree every politician, holds the lives of their constituents in their hands. Not just the lives of America’s enemies, or our criminals, but every single citizen. The color tie a person wears does not determine how much value they place on Americans’ lives. If we must be reduced to rooting for teams, then let’s hold the players to a higher moral standard.