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OPINION: Last week in politics: COVID-19, SCOTUS, and the presidential debate

These past couple weeks in politics have been chaotic. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away after succumbing to pancreatic cancer, the first Presidential debate was a slew of hurling insults and talking over each other, and multiple people within President Donald Trump’s circle tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). All of these things happening so close together put Americans further at the edge of our seats, as we await the outcome of the Nov. 3 election. We constantly have new events thrown in our faces every day, most recently all of the conservative politicians who have contracted COVID-19 including President Trump. With all of these things we’re faced with so many questions: who will be the next Supreme Court Justice? How many of these conservative politicians will beat COVID-19? When will finalized election results actually come in?

With Trump’s nomination of a Supreme Court Justice, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, he has received backlash from Democrats as well as politicians within his own party. The day after Ginsburg passed away, her granddaughter Clare Spera made a statement addressing her grandmother’s dying wish was to wait until the next president is elected to fill her spot on the bench. Trump, however, did not seem to take this into consideration as he stated he would name his pick once Ginsburg’s casket had been lying in state for two days and was on its way to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. On Sept. 26, Trump officially announced Barrett as his nomination after naming some of his potential picks, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Josh Hawley (R-MO). 

Trump’s behavior in this decision is dissimilar to Republicans in 2016, after Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in Feb. 2016 far before the election. President Barack Obama named lawyer Merrick Garland to replace Scalia a month later, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the nomination should wait until after the election so Americans could have a say in their next justice. Trump appointed conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch to fill the spot, and later appointed controversial candidate Brett Kavanaugh after Justice Anthony Kennedy retired. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have voiced that they do not support the replacement of Justice Ginsburg until after this election, keeping with the idea that the American people should have a say in who is nominated.

However, these Supreme Court decisions and Coney Barrett’s Senate hearings have been halted and may not be able to happen until after Election Day due to the spread of COVID-19 among Republican politicians and Trump’s staff. Those who are positive for COVID-19 include: President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Senior Adviser Hope Hicks, Republican National Convention Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), Assistant Press Secretaries Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, President of the University of Notre Dame John Jenkins, Pastor Greg Laurie, and White House Correspondent Michael Shear, and Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, among others. 

President Trump spent three days in Walter Reed Medical Center and checked out Monday night, and began to spread misinformation about the virus on his Twitter. He first told supporters, “Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it.” He later went on to tell supporters that COVID-19 is nothing to worry about and compared it to the common flu, saying Americans “have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with COVID,” which was taken down by Twitter for violating their guidelines for “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.” 

Trump’s diagnosis of COVID-19 is seen by many Democrats and leftists alike as being science and karma coming together to bite back at him for downplaying the virus for months. Ironically, he was also diagnosed just a couple of days after the first presidential debate against former Vice President Joe Biden in which he criticized Biden for always wearing masks around others.

During the first debate Trump attacked Biden, saying, “I don’t wear a mask like him, every time you see him, he’s got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from him and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.” When news of his positive test came, many saw this as what should be Trump’s wake up call to wear masks adamantly, and to take the virus seriously. Trump’s misinforming tweets and refusal to wear masks is not a surprise, as he has told supporters not to listen to Democrats in regards to wearing masks, and even pulled out of the World Health Organization after accusing the organization of aiding China’s cover up of the virus’ origins.

Besides the fact that Trump condemned Biden for wearing masks everywhere, the debate was also filled with constant interruptions, name calling, and moderator Chris Wallace having to give Biden back time that Trump had interrupted. Both Trump and Biden had agreed upon giving each other two uninterrupted minutes to answer questions, which they did not abide by whatsoever. The BBC counted how many times Trump interrupted Biden’s answers, coming to 73 different interruptions in the 90 minute debate. One of the most shocking takeaways from the debate, however, was when Trump dodged Wallace’s question about whether he would condemn white supremacy right then and there. When he said, “Name a group,” Biden twice called out “Proud Boys” to which Trump said, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I’ll tell you what… somebody’s got to do something about antifa [anti-fascist activists] and the left because this is not a right-wing problem.” This did not shock many, as Trump deemed the far-right extremists in the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia to be “very fine people.” Groups participating in the rally included the Proud Boys, Klansmen, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, fascists, and white nationalists. 

After Trump’s statement directed to the Proud Boys at the debate, members of the Proud Boys said this remark was “historic” and deemed it as an endorsement by the President. During the debate, Trump also urged his supporters to patrol polling places on Election Day, most likely as a means to intimidate Democrats who plan on casting their ballots in person. This comes after Trump claimed that mail-in ballots will be “a disaster” and has come up with another conspiracy theory about how mail-in ballots will be a “left-wing hoax to rig the election,” which is simply not true.

Given all of this uncertainty about which direction the country is headed in, and when we will actually have a clear idea of who our next president will be, everything is up in the air. Many have said that rather than having just one Election Day and knowing the next President the night of Nov. 3, it may turn into an “Election Month” due to the increase in mail-in ballots. 

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