It’s still too early to declare the final results of the 2020 elections, but there are at least a few things that we know will never be the same again, even before we get to November.
While the country wrestles with the coronavirus, both the Republican and Democratic national conventions will look different than in years past. It’s simply unsafe for large groups to gather in close proximity indoors. But conventions will never look the same again, even when the threat of COVID-19 fades away. Before the global pandemic, there was plenty of skepticism about the need for a full, four-day, four-night, in-person event. It felt like the conventions were more creatures of habit rather than necessity. Now that the habit’s broken, arguing for the need to go back will be even more difficult.
States and localities are expanding vote-by-mail options in response to the coronavirus to help assure voters that it’s not necessary to risk their health to cast a ballot. When the coronavirus disappears, it will be difficult to roll back those expansions and changes. It could happen with a change in power, but that will also require explaining why votes can only be cast on a single day in specific locations for a limited number of hours, rather than when the voter has time to fill out and return the ballot in the days or weeks before Election Day.
On a related note, Election Day will never be the same. With an increasing percentage of ballots being cast by mail and the potential for long lines of people waiting to vote after the polls close, it will be difficult for the media to confidently project winners. And without declared winners, it will be more difficult to project the presidential winner and control of Congress. In many states with extensive vote-by-mail, ballots only have to be postmarked by Election Day, let alone be received and counted. The only way we’ll get firm results on election night is when there’s a landslide race.
Would you rather spend an hour roaming the aisles of a crowded store or drive up to the store and have someone drop the bags into the trunk of your vehicle? The latter has become a healthier option during the coronavirus, but it’s unlikely to go away even when it’s safe to shop in tight spaces again.
The Republican Party
This is not a moral judgement on the GOP, it’s reality. Republicans have become primarily a following of a person more than an ideology or a set of issue stances. That will make for a messy transition when Donald Trump is no longer the president. He’ll still be active on social media (and potentially his own traditional media brand) and some grassroots Republicans will still want to follow him. A pack of other GOP politicians will attempt to fill the void, many by trying to be Trump, and they will fail, and likely look silly in the process.
Carry-out mojitos aren’t my jam, but I’ve heard they are very popular. And it’s not hard to see them becoming an invaluable commodity for one party to wash down the results of the November elections.
Nathan L. Gonzales is an election analyst for CQ Roll Call.