Former UK Prime minister Winston Churchill once remarkably said: “Never let a good crisis go waste”. The Coronavirus outbreak has turned the world upside down, impacting the discourse over what should be the biggest political story of the year as well. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic can be constituted as a unique opportunity for the political leaders in North America to shift public opinion.
From field tactics to fundraising, the facets of political campaigning are significantly changing amid the pandemic struggle in North America. Historically, not only a crisis has been viewed as a crucial priority for the welfare of the citizens, but it also proposed great political opportunities for the leaders. As suggested by former US President John F Kennedy, out of crises can emerge new and incredible opportunities, specifically if conventional approaches are challenged or not available.
Certainly, political strategists across countries would not be wasting the opportunity to monetize on a crisis as massive as the global health emergency. In Canada for instance, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic and his government’s response towards public welfare has provided a window of opportunities for him in the political discourse. Not only he will be able to regain control over the political narrative in Canada, but he will also emerge as a powerful leader in the eyes of the public. The Quebec government under Premier François Legault has also reportedly gained advantages from the COVID-19 emergency.
As the United States struggles to adapt to new life amid the pandemic, the 2020 Presidential election is just around the corner. Supporters of Donald Trump and Joe Biden continue to profess confidence in their selected candidate. While the public agenda was quite different at the beginning of the year 2020, it has dramatically shifted after the advent of the Coronavirus crisis, proposing a substantial opportunity for US President Trump. Visibly, Biden is struggling to make an impact in the US public opinion due to subsided poll campaigning. It is important to note that campaigners have moved their schedule to the digital space over transmission fears.
On the other hand, with an increase in Trump’s public appearances to address pandemic-related press briefings, his approval ratings have managed to remain steady. Some political analysts are also suggesting that Trump’s COVID-19 press briefings are turning into campaign rallies as traditional campaigning remains suspended due to lockdown. He has divided his communication strategy into two perspectives: His government’s response to the crisis and pinning the blaming of shortfalls in crisis response on others, including the WHO immigrants, China, as well US governors.
At a time when political leaders in North America have institutionalized the Coronavirus pandemic into boosting their public image, it will be interesting to analyze the transformations in the political discourse in the post-COVID world.