The infection election: from pallbearers to poll watchers

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President Donald J. Trump as he disembarks Air Force One at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, October 13, 2020. Image: The White House/Flickr

On July 8, Mark Anthony Urquiza, with his sons as pallbearers, was carried to his final resting place in Phoenix's Holy Cross Cemetery. He died of COVID-19 complications, on a ventilator, alone but for a health-care worker holding his hand.

Urquiza's passing might have gone with scant notice, like far too many of the more than 217,000 people in the United States who have succumbed to this deadly disease so far, had his daughter Kristin not penned an obituary that garnered national attention. "His death is due to the carelessness of the politicians," she wrote, "who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies through a clear lack of leadership, refusal to acknowledge the severity of this crisis, and inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction."

Kristin Urquiza places the blame for her father's untimely death squarely with President Donald Trump. "My dad was a healthy 65-year-old," she said, addressing the Democratic National Convention this summer. "His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump. For that, he paid with his life." Trump's calamitous pandemic response has cast a pall of death and economic calamity over the country, as he inflames racism and division in the lead up to this infection election.

After nine months of downplaying and outright lying about the pandemic, the White House -- perhaps now better called "the Blight House" -- is a COVID-19 hotspot itself. On Wednesday, we learned that Trump's teenaged son Barron tested positive for the virus. Less than three weeks ago, the indoor reception and packed rose garden ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination, with no social distancing and very few masks, created a likely superspreader event.

At least 40 people who were there or otherwise close to Trump have since tested positive. Trump, after being hospitalized, returned to the White House, ignoring CDC standards and medical norms, dramatically removed his mask and walked inside, potentially infecting staff and others. Days later, he held a rally on the south lawn -- again, closely packed in and mostly maskless. From Florida to Pennsylvania to Iowa, maskless crowds have gathered at Trump rallies, where Trump claims he is now "immune" to COVID-19 and not contagious, providing no medical evidence.

Trump is also actively promoting a dangerous "herd immunity" response to the pandemic, risking millions of deaths. Meanwhile, infections and hospitalizations are surging as the long-predicted autumn COVID-19 wave strikes. With close to 60,000 new cases reported Wednesday in the U.S., intensive care units from North Dakota to Wisconsin to Mississippi are at or near capacity.

The pandemic has caused the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, yet Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate continue to stonewall federal COVID-19 relief. Instead they're attempting to ram through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

The hearings have revealed some of Barrett's disturbing legal views, including her belief that the right to bear arms is inviolable, but the right to vote is not. She refused to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act, Roe v. Wade, voting rights or even if President Trump could delay the election or refuse to transfer power peacefully.

Republicans are aggressively attempting to suppress Democratic votes. One of Trump's sons, Donald, Jr., has called for volunteers to "join ARMY FOR TRUMP's election security" at Democratic precincts to challenge the right of individuals to cast their vote, to question the signatures on mail-in ballots, and otherwise intimidate and discourage voters. In Pennsylvania, a judge ruled the Trump campaign’s deployment of "poll watchers" in Philadelphia violated state law.

Guns Down America reports that in the swing states of Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, "[t]he threat of armed individuals disrupting polling places is not theoretical. Private citizens with firearms have demonstrated at polling places during the 2016 and 2018 elections and are poised to do so again this November."

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbot limited each county to just one ballot drop location, regardless of county population. Thus, Harris County, including Houston, with over 4.7 million residents, gets as many ballot drop locations as Loving County's 169 residents. Ohio's Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose similarly ordered just one ballot drop location per county, regardless of population. The intent is clear: make it hard to vote in cities, which tend to vote Democratic.

Despite the obstacles, the threat of thugs at polling places and the looming tsunami of lawsuits promised by Trump and the Republicans, over 14 million people have already voted early, shattering previous records. Many are risking exposure to COVID-19, enduring lines that can take over 10 hours, to cast their vote. During this infection election, voting is a vaccination for our ailing body politic. Mass participation just might be a miracle cure.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She is the co-author, with Denis Moynihan, of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times bestseller. This column originally appeared on Democracy Now!

Image: The White House/Flickr

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