Schar School Associate Professor Jennifer N. Victor is one of the world’s foremost experts in campaign finance, elections, and U.S. politics. She is the co-editor of the 2017 Oxford Handbook of Political Networks and co-author of Bridging the Information Gap: Legislative Member Organizations in the United States and the European Union. She is a frequent contributor in Politico, The New York Times, and other prominent publications. In 2019, she was awarded George Mason University’s Teaching Excellence Award.
How will COVID-19 impact society?
Victor: The Covid-19 outbreak is as much a policy problem as it is a medical one. Sometimes it takes a disaster or crisis to remind us how interconnected we all are. Even our individual health status is not just a function of our own behaviors and conditions, but is determined by those around us, too. In this way, health is not an individual-based phenomenon, but a community-based one.
What actions can society take to support one another right now?
Victor: In the face of a pandemic, keeping people healthy requires group action, and helping people to coordinate group action is basically the whole purpose of government. Recommendations for social distancing and isolation are as much about you not inadvertently giving the disease to your neighbor or co-worker—in the case where you are an asymptomatic carrier, for example—as it is about you not catching it from someone else.
What role do political and societal leaders play in this time?
Victor: Policy makers, political leaders, and social influencers play a key role in facilitating the coordination that helps people to understand why measures like social distancing are important to heed. In the absence of policy coordination, the spread of the disease would be far more devastating. In this way, the policy makers play a role in saving lives, just using different tools than doctors.