Written by Aditya Singh, a grade 12 student.
This article is appropriate for children 14 years and older
Tomorrow, on 3rd November 2020, the second-largest democracy in the world will hold its presidential elections. In an event that is going to cost upwards of 14 billion dollars, the country of 325 million people will choose their 46th President. As the whole world seems to await the results and its projected dramatic effects with bated breath, here’s what you need to know about the 2020 US Elections.
The Candidates and the Parties
The contention for the post is between Republican incumbent President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, the Vice President from the Obama Administration.
Starting off as a clerk in a law firm headed by a prominent Republican in 1968, he used to associate with more liberal Republican ideologies. However, by the next year, he started working as a public defender at a law firm run by a locally active Democrat. He has served as the Vice President from 2009 to 2017 and was in the United States Senate from 1973 till 2009. Over time he has come to be seen as a moderate Democrat whose policies are essentially the opposite of Trump’s on multiple issues such as gun control, climate change, and even COVID-19.
He’s a firm believer in science and climate change and has promised to work towards transitioning from the oil industry and making the US a 100% clean energy economy. He aims to have the US play a role in rallying the world against climate change.
If elected to power, he also wants to enact much stricter control over the manufacturing and sale of guns across the US.
While criticizing Donald Trump’s comments and behaviour towards women, he pointed out that if men were smart, they would be feminists.
However, his campaign has had its fair share of controversies. In 2019, 7 women came forward accusing Biden of kissing, hugging, or touching them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. Biden acknowledged the comments, saying his intentions were benign and promised to be “more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.”. A former aide, Tara Reade, who briefly worked as a staff assistant in Biden’s senate office accused him of sexual assault in the same year. The claims were vehemently denied by the Biden campaign. With a lack of substantial evidence from both sides, the case devolved to a ‘he said, she said’ and has been declared as ‘inactive’ by the DC police.
The businessman turned politician has dominated the news for the four years that he has been President. The first President to ever be elected without having prior military or government service, he sparked mass protests with his surprise victory. Trump’s political positions have been described as populist, protectionist, isolationist, and nationalist. His distrust of allies and his policy of ‘America First’ has led to him pulling out of multiple international unions and agreements that he believed treated the US unfairly, some of the most significant of them being, the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear Deal.
He rejects the scientific consensus on climate change and has gone as far as to call it an ”expensive hoax” and constantly mocking activists and politicians working against climate change.
Amid the rising number of school shootings in 2019, he had expressed interest in Gun Reform but dropped the idea by November. It is public knowledge that the NRA had contributed to his 2016 campaign.
He also has a shockingly hostile approach to illegal immigration, with immigrants being detained for long periods under unsafe conditions in what his opponents have decried as ‘concentration camps’ along with the separation of more than 5400 migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border.
His slow response towards as well as his dismissal of the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the US having over 9 million COVID cases and 230,000 COVID deaths. His refusal to listen to his own experts has cost the American public dearly.
The Trump Presidency has been tumultuous, to say the least. In a manner that the media describes as nothing short of unprecedented, Trump has made a record-breaking number of false and misleading claims throughout his Presidency. The New York Times logged him as making at least one false claim a day for 91 of his 99 first days of Presidency. In September 2019, Trump was reported to have pressured the Ukrainian President to investigate wrongdoing by Biden and his son Hunter Biden. When no concrete evidence was found against the Bidens, Trump’s actions were perceived as attempts to hurt Biden’s presidency bid, leading to his attempted impeachment by the House of Representatives.
A lot of his actions during the presidency have been said to be racially charged or racist. He initiated a travel ban for citizens from several Muslim majority countries and referred to African countries in a derogatory manner. His campaign has also denied the existence of systemic racism as Black Lives Matter protests sweep across the country.
His history concerning women is also quite troubling. Apart from his constant sexist remarks about women, their abilities and their bodies, a book titled All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator, which drew on over 100 interviews listed a full 26 instances of “unwanted sexual conduct” and 43 instances of inappropriate behaviour in addition to the more than 2 dozen pre-existing such allegations.
Noting Trump’s run, it makes sense that Biden is leading in the early national polls and opinion polls. He is predicted to win the election. However, the US General Elections have several factors that further their complexity.
As of 2nd November 2020, more than 94 million people had already cast their votes, either by mail or by voting in person. Given the advocating by Democrat leaders for their supporters to vote early, it’s only natural that a large number of these voters are casting Democrat votes, thus the early lead for Biden. Yet, it’s assumed that a large Republican turnout on election day could negate this advantage. Moreover, Biden’s campaign was a lot more subdued compared to Trump’s aggressive in-person campaigning approach. Probably repeating Clinton’s mistake from 2016, Joe Biden has also not devoted enough time campaigning in key states like Wisconsin.
Moreover, Trump is skilled at invoking antipathy among his voter base. He is capable of distracting his supporters towards the opponents, allowing them to turn a blind eye towards even his largest most glaring mistakes. It is something that may just allow him to win the election despite his fumbles as President.
Several issues that contribute to the uncertainty around the election are also more institutional in nature. Namely, the electoral college and swing states.
Under the Electoral College system of voting, when citizens vote, they vote for representatives of a political party known as electors who then vote to select the President. Each state has a fixed number of designated electors, 270 of which are required to win an election. When a candidate gets a victory by any sort of margin in a state, they claim all the electoral votes of the state. This is why even though Hillary Clinton got around 3 million more votes during the 2016 elections, Trump’s small margin wins in a handful of key states meant that he got more electoral votes and won the elections. The system currently favors Republicans due to the way that voters are distributed across the country.
In American politics, the term swing state (or battleground state) refers to any state that could reasonably be won by either the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate by a swing in votes.
These are the states that could make or break an election for a candidate. Election analytics website FiveThirtyEight in 2020 identified the states of Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin as “perennial” swing states that have regularly seen close contests over the last few presidential campaigns.
One thing though can be said for certain. Once this result comes through, there shall be no going back. Neither for Americans nor for the world. As Americans cast their final votes tomorrow, they’ll also be deciding the fate of a world that is intrinsically tied to theirs. They will cast their votes and then hope for their ideology and its leader to win. And the world? The world shall watch, the world shall wait and the world too shall hope.