Long Read US Politics

The American Election: what does it all mean?

Written by Tristan Jacquel

The US election is due to take place on the 3rd of November, two days out from the writing of this article.

Polls currently put Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, at a commanding 8.5 point lead over his competitor, having widened the gap significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic came to America.

With this in mind, now is the time to examine the two candidates, to see what they stand for and what their election would mean for the USA and the world at large.

To begin, let’s consider the Republican candidate, incumbent president, Donald J Trump. The Republican Party Platform has not changed since 2016, in spite of the changes in the political landscape, so what are it’s main takeaways?

 

Its headlines are as follows:

  • “Restoring the American Dream”

This section boils down to how the government wants to handle the economy. To get to the heart of its many promises, the most significant things it advocates for are as follows: lower tax rates for the rich; a focus on private investment as the strategy to improve the economy and a “winning trade policy” which “puts America first” (seemingly implying a much more hard-line approach to future trade negotiations.)

  • “A Rebirth of Constitutional Government”

This section concerns the US Constitution, claiming it is “in crisis”. Despite this apparent constitutional crisis, this section contains only four main proposals, one of which has become irrelevant now that the Republican party has installed a 6-4 majority in Supreme Court Justices. So, what are the remaining three proposals? They are: protect religious organizations, particularly from taxation; “Defend Marriage”, which is a thinly veiled anti-gay agenda (really, go read it) and “Protecting Human Life”, which is nothing more than an anti-abortion agenda (which makes a point of disparaging the use of foetal tissue in scientific research).

  • “America’s Natural Resources: Agriculture, Energy and the Environment”

The GOP’s proposals here can be broken down as follows: for agriculture, they want to remove regulations on agriculture to allow for claimed economic benefits; for energy, they want to further invest in “marketable” energy, which includes hydropower as the only renewable and for the environment, similar to agriculture, the GOP wants to remove environmental regulations put in place by the previous administration (a goal which they have made significant strides towards since gaining power in 2016).

  • “Government Reform”

Here, the GOP makes four main commitments: they want to officially make Puerto Rico the 51st State in accordance with the vote held in 2012; they want to crack down on illegal immigration (think of the wall we were promised in 2016); they want to remove internet regulations (technically speaking, this is relates to a more general distaste for ‘independent’ governing bodies) and they want to reduce the national deficit.

  • “Great American Families, Education, Healthcare, and Criminal Justice”

Here, there are a few main takeaways: the GOP wants to remove support systems for single parents, claiming that they encourage single parenthood, which is linked to child poverty; they want to preserve the pre-eminence of the American education system, decrease government contributions towards financing college loans and they want to increase public trust in the criminal justice system.

  • “America Resurgent”

This one is very simple, the GOP doesn’t like how “weakened” the US armed forces were come the end of Obama’s presidency and so, their platform promised to change this and restore “American military superiority”.

And that’s that!

 

Now, let’s consider the Democratic Platform, which has changed since 2016.

Its headlines are as follows (minus COVID-19 which we’ll come to later):

  • “Building a Stronger, Fairer Economy”

Much in contrast to the GOP, the Democrat’s economic strategy is based upon regulation: higher minimum wages; more protections for workers; more assistance for first time buyers in the housing market; a reformed tax code with a focus on need (the rich pay more and the poor, less) and a strengthened social security plan to guarantee security for retirees.

  • “Achieving Universal, Affordable, Quality Health Care”

The goal here is apparent in the headline: universal healthcare. So, how do the Democrats hope to achieve this? Well, similar to the economy, it’s about regulation: stopping pharmaceutical companies from ripping people off; reducing the cost of health care more generally; expanding mental health and support systems; seeking to eradicate racial inequalities in healthcare and investing in medical research.

  • “Protecting Communities and Building Trust by Reforming the Criminal Justice System”

There are three main takeaways under this headline: total reform of the criminal justice system, with a view to addressing its long history of systemic racism; an overhaul of the education system’s handling of misbehaviour, in the hopes of deescalating incidents before police involvement and finally putting an end to the “war on drugs” which has imprisoned millions of people (disproportionately many of whom are black or Latino) without having any significant impact on drug use.

  •  “Healing the Soul of America”

This section focuses on 3 core ideas: the government has a duty to protect the rights of its all its citizens equally; the government absolutely has to make strides towards ending gun violence; the government has a duty to support all aspects of society, including the press, the arts and faith-based organisations among others. Corresponding to each idea, the Democrats have proposed a response: supporting the Equality Act and enshrining gender equality in the US Constitution; creating better support systems for mental health and performing more rigorous background checks on this wishing to buy a firearm; keep on funding the the arts, protecting religious organizations and back the free press.

  • “Combatting the Climate Crisis and Pursuing Environmental Justice”

Quite simply, the Democrats acknowledge climate change for the crisis that it is. They would impose sweeping new regulations and immediately re-join the Paris agreement. Further, they would invest heavily in clean energy, renewables such as solar and wind power, using the jobs this would create as a platform to try and level the racial inequality pervasive throughout the US, with a stated goal that 40 percent of the benefit of these investments will go to disadvantaged communities.

  • “Restoring and Strengthening our Democracy”

This section boils down to the following statement: “one person, one vote.” The Democrats vow in this election to uphold this principle as far as they can, putting an end to the onerous Republican voter ID policies and the closing of polling stations in low income areas. Further, they will end “dark money” in elections with new transparency regulations and will be stringent in their watch for foreign influence on the US elections. Finally, they wish to represent Washington DC as the 51st state in the union and to offer debt relief and more rights to self-determination for Puerto Rico.

  • “Creating a 21st Century Immigration System”

This section is also very simple. The Democrats want a more inclusive and humane immigration system, with judges being given more independence. In addition, they want better treatment of immigrant workers after they get in the country and above all else, they want to keep families together and not separate them when they cross the border.

  • “Providing a World Class Education in Every ZIP Code”

Here, the Democrats again are seeking equality. They want to even out the funding of schools, which is currently based on ZIP Code income tax (therefore advantaging rich, predominately white, areas). Further, they want to make public universities free for most families (income <$125k) and extend up to $10k in debt relief to students who have taken loans. Finally, they want to ease off the burden that comes with a student loan, with less interest and smaller repayments.

  • “Renewing American Leadership”

The reach of this section is far, but it mostly focuses on America’s standing on the global stage. It commits to ending pointless “Forever Wars” and seeks to reinvent American influence on the world stage, to “lead not just with the example of our power, but with the power of our example”. Because America is no longer an uncontested superpower, the Democrats have promised a more reserved and collaborative approach to international discourse, as opposed to the “America first” ideology of days past. Most of all, they want to enable diplomacy, a woefully underfunded facet of international relations, as their first resort in times of tension.

 

So, those are the policies. They represent diametrically opposed ideologies: small government versus big government; freedom versus regulation; clean energy versus marketable energy; a freedom for all corporations versus a social security to enable all citizens…

And those ideologies are at the heart of the ballot. And they are the ideologies weighed up by every one of the expected turnout of over 140 million voters before they cast their ballots.

But, that leaves one question. Who cares? Who cares about policies? Who cares about ideologies?

In all honesty, not many people.

Because that’s not what this election is. What this election is, at its core, is a referendum on the incumbent president. It is a referendum on Donald Trump, on his four years as president. Most of all, it is a referendum on his response to COVID-19.

And it is a referendum that his is losing. One that he arguably should lose.

Just look at the polls: Biden, having started with only a 2 point lead on Trump, extended that lead to over 10 points at the peak of the pandemic. The truth is, the American people aren’t idiots and they aren’t happy with the state of their country.

And they hold Trump responsible.

Is that fair? Maybe, maybe not. But that’s the state of affairs.

And that’s what this election will mean.

And in the hopes that America makes the right choice, whatever that is, this election will be one that has a profound impact on millions, if not billions, of lives.

So, God bless America!

Because they may really need it now.

About the author

Tristan Jacquel

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