Five months from a crucial presidential election, the usual political debates, campaign events and policy fights have faded into the background for voters battered by a public health crisis, struggling through an economic recession and boiling over with fury over racial inequities.
With tens of millions unemployed, more than 110,000 killed by the coronavirus and thousands of people protesting across the country, Americans see their personal concerns and political choices through a strikingly existential lens — mourning the past, worried about the present and fearful about their future.
In interviews with more than two dozen voters in key political battleground states, Republicans, Democrats and independents expressed worries that their nation has careened off track, with problems no election could easily solve. Fiercely polarized over public health, public safety and, perhaps, truth itself, the country is united only in its collective anxiety.
President Trump has done little to soothe the country’s collective angst, offering few new policy proposals and plenty of pointed warnings that Democrats would make the country worse. He has offered an incendiary response, invoking “law and order,” promoting conspiracy theories and pushing hard for the country to reopen despite rising case numbers.
The presumptive Democratic nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., has spoken emotionally about those killed by the virus and about the death of George Floyd, advocated new police reforms, called for the mending of racial divisions in the country, and urged Americans to rise to the challenge of the times. But he has struggled to break through the crush of news and connect with young voters.
Lisa Mañon, an executive assistant who backed Senator Bernie Sanders in Wisconsin’s Democratic primary election, does not believe that either Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden will force the kind of economic changes that would affect her.