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‘American Politics in a COVID-19 World’: Stubblefield Institute panel discusses post-election concerns

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Nov 20, 2020


SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Monday evening, the Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute hosted a virtual panel discussion on “American Politics in a COVID-19 World: What Lies Ahead?”

Featured on both Zoom and Facebook Live, the panel included Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report; Ray Suarez, 30-year CNN and NBC broadcast journalist; and Susan Glasser, staff writer and “Letter from Trump’s Washington” columnist for The New Yorker. The panel was moderated by Kelly Johnston, the 28th Secretary of the U.S. Senate, and Jordan Jalil, Shepherd University Debate and Forensics Team captain and inaugural member of Stubblefield Institute Board of Advisors.

According to the panelists, Joe Biden’s win of the popular vote and electoral college over incumbent President Donald Trump was a notable victory.

“It’s a very unequivocal result by historical standards, based on the election results,” Glasser said. “There are a couple hundred thousands votes separating President Trump and Joe Biden in a number of states. By historical standards, he defeated an incumbent president in a way that has not been done since Kennedy.”

Glasser and Suarez both agreed, that the president’s refusal to acknowledge his defeat is also an unprecedented behavior.


“There’s absolutely no precedent whatsoever that the president of the United States or the losing candidate has refused to acknowledge the loss of the election. This is truly not something I thought I would ever see in my lifetime,” Glasser said. “I’m very concerned to see this attempt to delegitimize this attempt to undermine the democratic process.

The panel agreed that Biden has presented his desire to unify Americans, by maintaining friendships with members of from both sides of the political spectrum. However, they agreed the president’s refusal to acknowledge the General Election’s result could prevent unification from developing after Biden is sworn in next year.

“At this particular moment, Biden’s good will is not going to be enough, because we’re coming at the end of long years that have been marked with combatant mindsets. Americans have a strongly-stated mutual incomprehension — it’s not usually as distinct as it is now,” Suarez said. “Biden has friendships with members of both parties, but I question whether that will be enough to create unity now.”

Another obstacle the panel noted Biden would be facing as soon as he was sworn in, was the lack of federal guidelines related to the COVID-19 Pandemic. According to Glasser, at the beginning of the pandemic, Americans seemed to be showing signs that they were willing to abandon their polarized stances and join together to fight the pandemic. But the federal government’s actions over the following months prevented that from happening.

“Before this was politicized, 80 percent of Americans were positive for mask wearing and other social distancing measures. It wasn’t until after this was politicized, that people became less open to those measures,” Glasser said, referring to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, of which she is a longtime board member. “This is a terrible example of polarization, where peoples’ lives are being put at risk.


“This is going to rank as one of the most tragic events in American history,” Glasser said, referring to the COVID-19 Pandemic. “In my decades as a journalist, if you had told me this was going to be happening at this time in American history, I truly would not have believed you, and I would not have wanted to believe you.”

Despite the panel’s recognition of the bleak future the pandemic promises, its members refused to be entirely without hope.

“I hope by 2021 we will have a vaccine that works and will be able to distribute it and move on,” Walter said, referring to recent news that pharmaceutical companies will likely have a COVID-19 vaccine available to the general public by this summer.

“This country is incredibly resilient and optimistic. It’s what sets us apart, I think, from everywhere else. I think that’s why, even at our most bleak, it’s what keeps us moving through this,” Walter said. “I wish we could see we could be in the same stadium, cheer for different teams, but realize at the end of the day, that we’re under the same roof.”