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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Elections postponed, markets rocked, curve flattened?

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Elections postponed, markets rocked, curve flattened?

For the next few days, at least, we'll give you a roundup of key COVID-19 stories that jump out at us.

Coronavirus has forced the postponement of local elections in England until next year, though France and Germany are still going ahead with theirs. Some US states will hold presidential primaries Tuesday as scheduled, but Louisiana and Georgia have already postponed. A larger question looms: If this crisis continues into autumn, might the November 3 US presidential election be delayed? That's never happened in American history, and for good reason. The president can't simply order a delay. The election date, set in federal law, can be changed only by agreement of Congress, the president, and the courts…and the US Constitution requires that the new presidential term begin on January 20. Still, how the coronavirus affects perceptions of electoral legitimacy is a big, big question.


The financial response: Governments and central banks are taking steps on a scale not seen since the 2008 financial crisis to prop up markets and limit serious damage to the global economy. On Sunday, the US Federal Reserve cut its interest rate target to zero and announced other emergency actions to stabilize ravaged financial markets. The good news is that the Fed is coordinating with other central banks in the UK, Europe, Switzerland, and Japan. The bad news is that Wall Street and other global financial markets kept tumbling anyway. (Stocks tumbled more than 12 percent Monday, the biggest single-day drop since the crisis began.) That was partly because China published data showing a sharp contraction in economic activity in January and February as it locked down cities and factories to halt the virus. There are growing concerns that a similar, or even worse, contraction could hit Western economies that have so far failed to get a grip on the outbreak.

A quick explainer on FLATTENING THE CURVE: The point of all the social distancing and school/restaurant shutdowns is not to prevent huge numbers of people from getting COVID-19 – that's virtually inevitable over the next year. The point is to prevent huge numbers of people from getting it all at once, which can quickly overwhelm health systems. Most people who get COVID-19 will get better on their own after a rough few days – but you don't want the significant number of severe cases that do require hospitalization to exceed hospitals' capacity. Do whatever you can to flatten the curve! For an amazing visual on how coronavirus spreads with and without social distancing, see this WaPo interactive. And for a great piece of art showing how it stops in just twelve seconds, see this animation by Spanish artist Juan Delcan. Flatten the Curve!

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream