''VIRUS shows participating in democracy can be at odds with staying healthy.''

These are instructions now, simple and bleak : Stay home if you can. Only essential personnel report for duty. Do not travel unless absolutely necessary.

And now the attendant questions, at least as grim? Are voters, essential personnel in a pandemic?

In an election - that grand replenishing of government, where the supply shelves can feel bare -absolutely necessary under these conditions?

Can staying home really be the civic duty this time? And what good is politics if that is true?

There are no clean answers and, in the United States, no particularly consistent ones. The collision of social distancing and the social fabric seemed to threaten the aims of both, producing a primary Day  at once disjointed and borderline dystopian.

''Going to the polls amid the coronavirus outbreak is a personal decision,'' Mr. Sanders tweeted recently and his campaign said it was forgoing traditional get-out-the-vote efforts, ''and we respect whichever choice voters make.''

The message lands uneasily in a country that has generally been told, by Mr. Sanders as forcefully as anyone, that voting is a cure for what ails it.

Vote out the scoundrels. Vote in the change. Vote as if your life depends on it. It is a call as familiar as it is bipartisan.

''Whether you love or hate me,'' President Trump instructed last summer, tying his success to the economy's ''you have to vote for me.''

''Don't boo,'' Barrack Obama has long advised his audience, ''Vote.''

Yet such is the  cruelty and precariousness of of the present bind, when public safety and ballot-casting appear to be in conflict.

Telling residents to stay home, in an age of voter purges and fierce debates over voting rights, is bound to be fraught under any circumstances.

''It's like watching these two colliding trains,'' said Carol Anderson, a professor of African-American studies at Emory university, who has written extensively about voter suppression.

''How do we maintain the public health and also democracy's health?''

The honor and serving of the latest research on democracy, when at odds, continues. The World Students Society thanks author, Matt Flegenheimer.


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