By Arab News
By Dalia Al-Aqidi
As the US approaches the end of 2023, familiar challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and its related restrictions are once again coming to the forefront of the American public discourse.
With New Yorkers being told on Friday to consider wearing face masks in crowded areas due to the rapid spread of a new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 — has understandably triggered a sense of apprehension among a significant portion of the American populace, giving rise to concerns about the potential implications for the nation’s political landscape. In light of recent events, many citizens are drawing parallels to the circumstances leading up to the 2020 general elections, prompting contemplation about the intentions and strategies of the Democratic Party.
The US, like much of the global community, has been navigating the intricate terrain of public health, socioeconomic stability and individual freedoms in its response to the disease. As the nation grapples with these challenges, it is natural that citizens are reminded of the pivotal role pandemic-related issues played in shaping public sentiment during the preceding election cycle.
Amid these reflections, a palpable sense of uncertainty has emerged, particularly among those who harbor reservations about the handling of the 2020 elections. Voters have the right to express concerns that the Democratic Party might be considering a strategy reminiscent of that election year, evoking memories of the heightened reliance on mail-in ballots, adjustments to voting procedures and debates about the legitimacy of the electoral process. Isn’t that how President Joe Biden managed to win from the basement of his house in 2020?
Such concerns are rooted in skepticism and reflect the deep-seated desire for transparency, fairness and the safeguarding of democratic principles. As we navigate these sensitive waters, it is essential to approach these concerns with a balanced perspective. The Democratic Party, like any political entity, is driven by a multitude of motivations and objectives. At the same time, public apprehensions stemming from past experiences are a testament to the American people’s commitment to upholding the integrity of their democratic institutions.
It is becoming apparent that a chapter in recent history is repeating itself. This observation prompts an examination of the manner in which the COVID-19 pandemic was handled from a political standpoint, specifically within the context of the Democratic Party’s actions. It is imperative to explore how the pandemic was, at times, utilized for political ends, potentially contributing to widespread fear and a sense of confinement within the population.
During the pandemic’s early phases, how certain narratives were presented to the public warrants careful scrutiny. The utilization of messaging to evoke fear and concern is a recognized tactic within political communication. However, when such messaging exacerbates anxieties to the extent of influencing social behaviors and mental states, it warrants ethical and moral contemplation. Reports of individuals passing away in solitude in hospital settings, isolated from loved ones, provide a stark representation of the deeply emotional toll that such an approach can engender.
Amid this atmosphere, the pandemic seemed to unfold as a prolonged and distressing narrative, akin to a suspenseful horror movie. The imagery of individuals facing their final moments without the presence of loved ones, coupled with the overarching atmosphere of uncertainty, contributed to a collective sense of vulnerability and trepidation. This atmosphere was fueled, in part, by the political messaging that accompanied it. As we find ourselves in a situation where such dynamics could potentially recur, it is essential to reflect on the lessons learned from the past. It is worth acknowledging that political motivations can intertwine with crisis responses, raising questions about prioritizing public health and safety versus partisan gains.
I distinctly recall observing individuals driving alone in their vehicles while wearing masks, as well as witnessing people donning masks while spending time in their own backyards soaking up the sun.
In moving forward, an informed and engaged citizenry plays an integral role in maintaining transparency and accountability within the political sphere. Rather than falling into polarizing narratives, fostering open dialogue and the critical analysis of political messaging can help mitigate the negative impacts of crisis politicization. This approach enables citizens to actively shape policies and responses that reflect their concerns and broader societal well-being.
The reason I have opted to address this subject at this moment is due to the growing recognition among Americans that there exists a juncture where questioning both the pandemic’s implications and the government’s stringent actions, such as the closures of schools, businesses and dining establishments, becomes increasingly challenging.
A significant number of conservative doctors, writers and individuals found themselves subject to censorship by those aligned with the left solely for expressing reservations about the impact of COVID-19 vaccines. Their concerns, grounded in the vaccines’ relatively short presence in the medical landscape, drew attention to the parallels drawn with the introduction of novel medicines. Adding to this complex landscape, the imperative of vaccination resulted in situations whereby individuals faced the potential loss of their job if they chose not to comply. This scenario was reminiscent of Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Back then, we were not allowed to think or question, let alone reject.
It is imperative for President Biden, his political party and his presidential campaign to acknowledge that a significant portion of the American populace has grown weary of adhering to progressive agendas and the trends associated with cancel culture. Convincing the public to resume mask-wearing, even amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, may prove to be a formidable challenge. The populace has reached a point where further vaccine mandates and closures will be met with strong resistance. It is crucial to recognize that, while such measures may be employed to win elections, the propagation of fear and apprehension by the liberal media should not be the preferred path to victory.
Instead, the focus should be on addressing the American people’s concerns, desires and aspirations, fostering unity, and promoting policies that resonate with a broad cross-section of society. Only by truly understanding and addressing the collective sentiment can leaders chart a course that reflects the will and the well-being of the nation.
• Dalia Al-Aqidi is Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Policy.