A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by Liz Marlantes.

Why politics matters – especially now

Why We Wrote This

The coronavirus crisis is forcing candidates and their teams to get creative at a time when the democratic process is as vitally important as ever.

Evan Vucci/AP
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally March 2, 2020, at Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Dear reader:

How can anybody think or write about politics at a time like this? This oft-heard question reflects an underlying belief that politics is a dirty business and not to be considered during a crisis.

But the reality is, 2020 is a presidential election year. Many primaries up and down the ballot have yet to take place. And come Nov. 3, America will vote – whether in person or by mail – in the general election, as well they should: Politics is vitally important, even more so during a time of immense challenge.

For better or worse, politics is how we get our elected officials, the people who build teams and lead the nation, the state, the city, the town, in good times and bad. Politics is how we got Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan. Politics is also how we are getting a $2 trillion coronavirus emergency relief package through Congress.

Of course, there are distasteful aspects to politics – the name-calling, the dishonesty, the trickery. But political activity also has the ability to lift us up, create community, and take us out of ourselves and working toward the greater good. Monitor reporter Story Hinckley wrote compellingly about this last week from Florida.

When I look at my bursting inbox, I see emails from the Trump, Biden, and Sanders campaigns, as well as countless candidates for Congress and other offices. They ask for money, they tout endorsements, they appeal to slices of the electorate.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I was struck by a Trump campaign email announcing “Irish Americans for Trump.” At first, I thought, how can they be doing this now? Then I thought, why not? “Text SHAMROCK” to a particular number to join, the email said. All I could do was chuckle.

Campaigns are also an opportunity for creativity. At a time when people should not gather in person, candidates are holding virtual events. Former Vice President Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has been campaigning via webcast from a makeshift home studio in Delaware.

President Donald Trump has his bully pulpit, and easy ability to reach the masses. But he also has enormous responsibility. How he handles the coronavirus challenge will either make or break his presidency. But ultimately, at a time of crisis, it makes sense for Americans to put partisanship aside and hope that President Trump, as the nation’s chief executive, makes wise decisions.

Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

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