DEMOCRATS BRAVE THE VIRUS AND VOTE

At times it appears that the virus crisis has simply blotted out everything else. The underlying world of politics does continue on. While Donald Trump belatedly struggles to become the war leader against the virus, teams from the White House and the Center for Disease Control are struggling to find respirators and testing kits. They hope to make reality the president’s month old claim that tests are widely available. They, of course, are not. In the meantime citizens across the country are struggling with closed schools, and restaurants, and the fear of the looming unknown.

In these stressful circumstances, the Democrats are trying to keep the battle to gain their presidential nominee on track. Originally there were four party primaries scheduled for yesterday, March 17. The primaries in Arizona, Florida, and in Illinois, were held. The primary in Ohio was not. Governor Mike DeWine wanted to delay the election till June 2nd. On Monday, one day before the primary yesterday, a local judge ruled that the primary had to go on. Confusion reigned; The Ohio Department of Health Director then ordered the polls to stay closed as a result of a “health emergency”. So, as a result of all the turmoil, Ohio’s important primary will have to come later.

Of the states that did hold primaries yesterday, Arizona is a vote by mail state and about eighty percent of voters vote that way. That made the polls less crowded than they would have been otherwise. Florida too has a huge write-in vote which also means that the polls will be less crowded than they would have been.

This also will be the first vote in Florida in which a large number of former felons theoretically are eligible to vote. The Republican majority in Tallahassee had passed a law rendering them ineligible until all their legal bills were paid (now overturned by a federal district court). With that law overturned, their voting should inspire a good deal of reportorial attention.

It seems clear from the primaries in Florida, Arizona and Illinois that the people have decided. And, the reason that they have decided is clear. Joe Biden is the Anti-Trump, a warm goodhearted man with long experience in government. After more than three years of inexperience, dysfunction and chaos, many voters are ready for calm. The empathetic and grandfatherly Biden, to voters facing a terrifying pandemic, fills a real need.

Joe Biden yesterday carried Illinois 59% to 36%. He carried Arizona 43.6% to 31.6%. Most notably he carried heavily populated Florida with 219 delegates at stake, 62% to 22.8%. The delegate count after these elections gives Joe Biden 1153 delegates to Sander’s 874, a plurality of 279 delegates.

There are several reasons that the Florida vote was so one sided. Florida does have a large percentage of retirees. While Sanders has had real appeal to very liberal young people, Biden has dominated with voters over sixty. He should have done well in Florida. Sanders has done well up till now with Hispanic voters. But unlike Hispanics in other primary states, a large percentage of Florida’s substantial Spanish speaking population (Miami is a Spanish city) were originally Cuban. Those people are often less that enthusiastic about Sander’s long record of praise for Fidel Castro. Florida was a state which Sanders seemed doomed to lose.

So, there we are. For the next month we can expect that the politics of the presidential election will seem to recede while people concentrate on the viral pandemic. The trauma of life changes needed to fight the virus will occupy all our minds. In the meantime, the political actives will be trying to adapt to changes designed to limit the virus too. We may find that traditional voting for those later primaries will be replaced by voting for mail or on line. We will adjust!

H.J. Rishel

3/18/2020