Life is nowhere near returning to normal just yet—the coronavirus continues to ravage the US and the rest of the world, crushing the economy and decimating New York City—and yet, somehow there’s a sense of a new normalcy taking hold. People are still adhering to stay-at-home orders, but at least now they’re finding other things to discuss; or, at least, they’re finding new ways to talk about Covid-19-related stories, whether it’s fake medical advice or Twitter’s Jack Dorsey pledging $1 billion to fighting the disease.
Even as folks experience strange dreams due to current stresses, they’re still adapting to anxiety multitasking, allowing them to find the space to care about the end of Modern Family or whether or not the name Karen is a slur. (It’s really not, by the way.) This feels like a good thing, even though everyone must be careful not to trivialize the surreal, scary times they’re living in. This, then, is what people have been talking about for the past week: things touched by the pandemic, but not necessarily about the pandemic. This is the new normal.
Stay in Line
What Happened: Even as the world focuses on social distancing and keeping away from any kind of large gathering of people, voters in Wisconsin were forced to congregate en masse in order to make sure they could take part in democracy. That feels … not quite right.
What Really Happened: So, it’s safe to say that Wisconsin had quite a week. If you had half an eye on the news over the last few days, you might have noticed that the Badger State—yes, that’s apparently a real thing; it’s also America’s Dairyland, for those of you who love cheese—held some elections. If you thought, that’s an odd thing to do during a global pandemic where social distancing is a thing, then, really, you don’t know the half of it. Last week’s elections, you see, were the result of a political and legal fight that may hint at similar battles ahead in this presidential election year in the US.
It wasn’t just the race between Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and former vice president Joe Biden that Wisconsinites were voting on, as it turned out. There was another vote that just might explain why the state’s Supreme Court wanted the polls to stay open despite the clear and present danger to those who’d have to stand in line to let their voices be heard.
Given the situation, it’s not the biggest surprise that the number of voting locations was significantly smaller than usual (and there were significantly fewer locations available on Tuesday). It’s almost as if they should have postponed the vote or something.
And so, despite everything, the Wisconsin primaries went forward. At least this means the American public will know the results, right?
So, you know; the election was too important to postpone, but not important enough to have votes counted in a timely manner. Got it. Surely President Trump had something to say about what happened, as the leader of the country and everything. After all, “the buck stops here,” right?
The Takeaway: Forcing people out into long lines during a pandemic so that they can have a say in how things run—ain’t democracy grand?
Bernie Sanders Drops Out of the Race
What Happened: Bad news for Saturday Night Live fans who really liked seeing Larry David on the show; Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign last week, which also brought to an end all the speculation about when he would suspend his presidential campaign. Not everyone was happy with the choice, however.
What Really Happened: Last Wednesday began with an act that was as anticipated as it was unexpected: Bernie Sanders suspending his presidential campaign in a surprise announcement that landed even before the results of the Wisconsin primary were in. But then again, they’re not exactly coming any time soon.
Then again, we say he’s suspended his campaign, but it’s 2020, so the actual reality is a little more complicated and, to be honest, inexplicable.
Is a campaign really suspended if you can still vote for the candidate? Nonetheless, the news generated a number of retrospectives and think pieces about what Sanders had actually achieved, because of course it did. Joe Biden, who immediately became the Democratic nominee through process of elimination, gratefully accepted the news with what could be described as barely withheld glee and an attempt at bringing everyone together.
Here’s the thing, though—there were a lot of hurt feelings, and a lot of people in self-quarantine who had a lot of time to share those hurt feelings. Which is to say, Wednesday’s social media feeds were filled with people who weren’t quite ready to let bygones be bygones just yet. For example, the tresident of the United States. No, really.
We would say it’s unlikely that Bernie people will decamp to the Republican Party, but Joe Rogan exists, and he’s probably not alone. Moreover, based on some of the social media response to Sanders’ withdrawal, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be automatic that Sanders supporters will flock to Biden.
Meanwhile, others see the choice of who to vote for this November as far less complicated, for obvious reasons.
And, really, isn’t that ultimately the only way of looking at things right now? The attempts to bring people together are, at least, beginning to get underway, as is the speculation about Biden’s VP pick. Look, everyone knew that last one was coming, surely.
The Takeaway: We’ll just leave this here.
Face the Press (or Don’t, As the Case May Be)
What Happened: The revolving door that is the White House press secretary position turned once more last week, with the news that Stephanie Grisham was out despite having never actually held a press briefing in her nine-month tenure.
What Really Happened: While things on the Democratic end of the spectrum were going through changes last week, it wasn’t entirely quiet on the right, and not just because the Republican Party is up in arms over vote-by-mail. Nope, last week was also the week where Stephanie Grisham stepped down as White House press secretary.
Response to her departure was … exactly what you might expect, considering.
Still, if Grisham is out, that means there’s a vacuum in the Press Secretary Zone, and that’s just the kind of thing nature abhors. So, just who is about to step in to replace her?
Kayleigh McEnany, huh? So, what do folks know about Trump’s former campaign spokesperson?
Yeah, turns out folks have a bad feeling about the new press secretary.
The Takeaway: If there’s one thing that’s become clear over the past three years, it’s that being the White House press secretary for this administration isn’t a long-term gig. But perhaps McEnany is thinking ahead, and already planning her next move.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Battles Coronavirus
What Happened: The British prime minister ended up in intensive care last week because of the coronavirus, bringing out the most British of traits in response. Spoiler: We’re not talking about either a stiff upper lip or the spirit of the blitz.
What Really Happened: While the US response to coronavirus has been, at best, complicated by the fact that executive leadership has been disastrous, in the UK, things are just as bad, and again, a botched government response isn’t making things any better. Some saw it as a fitting irony, then, that British prime minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the virus himself. This week, that irony got a little darker.
By midweek, the official reports seemed promising, with Johnson’s condition improving according to those in the know. In an attempt to build national morale, there was an attempt to rally support for the famously unpopular leader that … wasn’t entirely successful, nor particularly inspiring, shall we say.
The Takeaway: As Johnson started to take a turn for the healthier, people started thinking about the more important things.
Everyone Loves Quinn the Quarantine Fox Now
What Happened: In these dark times of need, one fox was ready to step up and try to help the United States—nay, the entire internet—keep its sanity just a little bit longer. Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone else, it’s time to get to know Quinn.
What Really Happened: In these trying times, it only makes sense that one hero would arise from the confused ranks of social media to inspire and comfort a nation when it’s most needed. Less obviously, that hero is a fox meme that’s been invented by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and, despite that, has been accepted into the hearts of the normally cynical internet because of tweets like these.
By the time Quinn the Quarantine Fox got his own New York Times profile, the fix was in: It’s Quinn’s world now. We just live in it.
Just to be clear, there’s no twist to this story—Quinn’s weird meme posts just turned out to be exactly what an uncomfortable, anxious, needy-for-amusement internet was waiting for, it seemed. Even if people didn’t necessarily get it—and we’re pretty sure that there are levels to this that no one is getting—they’re still loving it.
If America doesn’t get Quinn plushies when all of this is over, then it’s very possible the US has failed as a nation.
The Takeaway: Oh, and by the way: Quinn the Quarantine Fox isn’t the USCPSC’s only animal mascot.
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