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Vox Publishes Klinkner Op-ed: Political Effects of COVID-19


Philip Klinkner
Philip Klinkner

The pandemic is hitting counties that voted for Hillary Clinton harder — for now, an essay published by Vox and written by Professor of Government Philip Klinkner, focuses on how Democrats and Republicans have experienced the pandemic in objectively different ways. The op-ed was published on May 1, and PBS's Newshour reported his findings on its May 4 program.

Klinkner explains how the differences between Democrats and Republicans are already shaping the nation’s pandemic response. The essay explains how this situation has “contributed to a partisan divide in attitudes about the pandemic, one in which Republican governors, lawmakers, and voters have remained broadly supportive of Trump — and have pushed for policies like the rapid reopening of businesses — while Democrats have not.”

Klinkner’s observations are substantiated with various statistics beginning with these: “As of April 27, according to county-level case data compiled by The New York Times, Covid-19 cases and deaths were far more prevalent in counties won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 than in counties won by Donald Trump. Clinton counties make up a slight majority of the US population, but so far they have seen 76 percent of the Covid-19 cases and 80 percent of the deaths. Trump counties are 44 percent of the population, but just 24 percent of Covid-19 cases and 20 percent of the deaths.”

Discussing the impact of these and other figures, Klinkner writes, “As much as we might like to think that this crisis will unite Americans across party lines, the reality is very different. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to reside in counties with large numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths and therefore much more likely to have a friend, neighbor, coworker, or family member affected by the disease, not to mention possibly contracting the virus themselves.

“On the other hand, for many Republicans, the disease and the deaths associated with it are more likely to be abstractions, something with little if any direct impact on them or their community so far.”

Klinkner references an Economist survey that found, “26 percent of Republicans thought that people were overreacting to the risk of the virus, but only 6 percent of Democrats did” in explaining the results of these varying experiences.

Klinkner concludes, “The differential impact of the pandemic also gives us clues about how the 2020 election might play out. Democrats will likely continue to criticize President Trump’s erratic and ineffectual response to the crisis and the need for the federal government to provide funding to meet the ongoing medical and economic emergency. President Trump, meanwhile, might argue that his actions have limited the pandemic at least in the areas where most of his voters reside, while Republicans might accuse Democrats of hyping the crisis in order to ramp up government spending for their voters in large urban areas. … it seems likely that the pandemic will only deepen America’s chronic social and political divides.”

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