As election day in the United States nears, critical swing states in the Midwest will be populated by both campaigns as they try to drive their supporters to the polls.

President Donald Trump spent Saturday crisscrossing the must-win State of Pennsylvania with Democratic Nominee Joe Biden close by in the State of Michigan. Their surrogates are also fanned out in critical must-win states where polling continues to show close races that will determine who wins the Electoral College and thereby the White House.

With COVID-19 cases breaking daily records at around 100 000 new infections and a death toll around 1000, the messages from Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump couldn’t be more different.

“We are rounding the turn on the pandemic, with or without the vaccine. We have the vaccine. It’s going to come. But even without it, we are rounding the turn. Seniors will be first in line to get it and it will be available free. (It) wasn’t their fault; wasn’t our fault. It was the fault of China, who should have kept it within their limits. Our vaccine will eradicate the virus and the pandemic, and it will end. Quickly restored normal life … that’s what we want – normal life” Trump said.

Confirmed coronavirus cases around the world: 

Biden slammed the President’s latest comments that America’s doctors were profiting from inflating COVID-19 deaths as public health experts have sounded the alarm that the country is on the wrong trajectory.

“You know, do you hear what he said today? He said today at a rally that our doctors are the problem because they’re putting their lives on the line, busting their necks. He said they’re making up deaths from COVID-19 because they get more money. They’re making up deaths. People aren’t really dying from COVID they are dying from other things. But they’re saying it’s COVID to make the numbers go up. My Lord. Doctors and nurses go to work every single day. Donald Trump should stop attacking them, and start doing his job.”

This, as anxiety and fear grows in the country about possible post-election violence amidst concerns, mainly from the right around unproven claims of election fraud and question around delays in announcing the result. An election night results seems increasingly less likely due to the volume of turnout and a surge in mail-in and absentee voting due to the pandemic. A question I raised in a recent interview.

Is the fundamental notion of democracy under threat in the United States? 

Jennifer Brandel is the Founder of tech-enabled company Hearken who wrote an article recently titled “Newsrooms, Prepare for the Election to go off the rails”.

“I think that forces have been conspiring, many have been conspiring in order to divide the country, pin us against each other. It’s a really great strategy for destabilizing the country which has worked very well. Instead of people who are feeling dissatisfied or they don’t get their basic needs met through government and social services, to start looking at one another as the problem and not some of these bigger systemic issues which are harder to wrap your head around and frankly take a long time to change. So, I think it’s an immediate way to finding some immediate release, having a villain on the other side, whatever that side is.”

Who’s driving this division do you think?

“Well, I can’t wait to see the documentaries that come out in five years looking back at what happened now when people are free to speak. But I think there’s a lot of that happening with the conservative movement in the US. I think they know that if everyone in the US did have their right to vote, conservatism and the Republican party would no longer be a thing. It would be severely under threat and then there are also other forces, foreign forces such as Russia that can gain a lot from destabilizing the country and so, I think there are many different forces at play and our president Donald Trump is mister divider in chief.”

Her company has created an online resource called ElectionSOS to help newsroom plan for worst-case scenarios.

“Compounding this whole political moment and the pandemic is also the fact that the US is dealing a lot with climate crises including wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes. So, there’s no shortage of just emergencies. So, what we’re trying to give journalists as quick access as possible to the information whether that’s checklists or people who are experts in voter suppression or people who are experts in how to de-escalate violence – you know what they need to prepare for, we have scenario planning guide, tons of resources and webinars to give journalists that extra training that their newsrooms cannot give them right now.”

During an interview with Brandel, she was asked if it would be wise for newsrooms to deploy their war correspondents to the United States.

“I don’t think that would hurt. I think having combat readiness and understanding the volatility of those situations is really important and another thing I think newsrooms need to take into account right now is who they’re sending out to do these stories and what risks are posed. If people of colour are out there, in the midst of a rally where there is a lot of white supremacy that puts them at even more danger so its difficult with already understaffed newsroom to figure out how to be on the ground.”

With the globe’s attention focused on the world’s longest standing democracy in the world, an election result – whenever it arrives – could fundamentally shift the trajectory of the United States as we have come to know it.

Counting down US elections: