On elections and viruses

Dr. Norman Bailey

While the political stalemate in Israel continues, the coronavirus pandemic is making possible pathways to the presidency in the US clearer.

Within 48 hours Israeli voters went to the polls for the third time in a year and US Democrats in 14 states chose among several candidates. In one sense the results could not have been more different. In Israel the essential stalemate continued, whereas in the US the race for the Democratic presidential nomination was essentially clarified. Hovering over both outcomes, however, like a black cloud, was the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic, threatening to throw all pre-virus analyses and predictions into the wastebasket of history.

The response of the Israeli Ministry of Health, considering the absence of a formal government, has been admirable. Decisive action has been taken by Israel to confront the danger to a greater extent than any other country, including the source-country of the virus, China. However, the threat will not go away any time soon and Israel can simply not afford to stay in political limbo until a fourth election. Having said that, the country may well do so, the sense of political responsibility apparently having disappeared from the national scene.

In the US, super-Tuesday left the Democratic nomination race with only two remaining candidates, former Vice-President Joe Biden for the moderate center and Senator Bernie Sanders for the extreme left. Contrary to conventional wisdom expressed right after the primaries, that Biden was sure to emerge the winner at the Democratic convention, there is no guarantee of that result. A majority of states haven't held their primaries yet, including some with a large number of delegates, such as New York and Illinois, where the party left wing is strong.

That said, which of the two would be more likely to defeat President Trump's bid for reelection? The answer to that question depends on the trajectory of the pandemic and the global recession which is taking place as a result of it. If the ravages of the virus peak late May, early June, as most informed opinion seems to think likely, then the recession will reach its nadir most likely two to three months after, meaning two or three months before the election.

If that is accurate, and the recovery is strong and strongly-felt among Trump's natural base, he is likely to win reelection whomever the Democrats nominate. If recovery is sluggish Biden would likely defeat Trump, whereas Sanders would not. In other words, in either case, Biden should be the preferred candidate for the Democrats. His election, should that take place, would mean a reversion to the status-quo ante-Obama in terms of US domestic and foreign policy. Not so bad, not so great, but more than acceptable in today's highly polarized political and social atmosphere around the world.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics and National Security, The National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft, The Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. He was formerly with the US National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 8, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Twitter Facebook Linkedin RSS Newsletters גלובס Israel Business Conference 2018