US elections 2020
Aydin, Ali Kaan
As any election in the world, the United States presidential and Congress elections witness an important clash of different ideologies and policies. What makes the US elections different from others is that being the world's largest economy in a global economic atmosphere, the policies implemented by the US have a major impact on the rest of the world.
Every four years the United States voters go to the ballots to determine which political party’s candidates will be in the office of presidency and in the congress. The election of 2020, despite the Covid-19 measures, is going as planned. With the election only a few days away, the world is waiting for 3rd of November to see who will occupy the White House for the next four years.
This article will examine the profiles of three presidential candidates and explain what kinds of policies their parties are planning to execute in case they get elected to the office of presidency. It will be further analysed what might go wrong if the majority of congress and the president are not aligning with the example of the delay of the Covid-19 economic relief in the past weeks.
- Electoral College & US Political Parties
The Electoral College is the system that determines which United States presidents are selected. Unlike most of the other democracies in the world, the party or leader with most votes does not automatically gets elected.
In the electoral college system each of the fifty states has a particular number of electors and in total there are 578 electors. A candidate is required to secure 270 or more of the electors to be elected. In every state except for two: Maine and Nebraska, the candidate that wins the majority of the votes obtains every electoral vote. For example even though Trump won Michigan only by 0.3% in the 2016 election, he received the entire 16 electoral votes from the State of Michigan.
The Electoral College makes the chances of smaller parties extremely difficult and because of this, throughout the years American politics has been divided into two parties, namely Republican Party and Democratic Party. The last time a candidate neither from the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party won was in 1848, when Zachary Taylor from Whig Party was elected to the office. Although even then, there were only two major parties.
In US politics the Democratic Party is commonly regarded as the “left-wing” party. Although the Democratic Party was founded on the basis of limited government and opposition to central banks, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his “New Deal” policy introduced a lot of state regulations and made the Democratic party the “social-liberal” party that it is today. In the past the Democratic Party was more prominent in the conservative south while today it is the party supported most by urban populations, minorities and youth.
The Republican Party, also known as the Grand Old Party or GOP, is generally regarded as the “right-wing” party. The first president to hold office as a Republican was Abraham Lincoln. Since then, Republican Party has been considered to be a pro-business and capitalist party. Even though the party was found on the classical liberal premises such as anti-slavery and capitalism, during the 20th century the party became more affiliated with conservativism than classical liberalism. One of the main turnpoints for this ideological shift is the presidency of Richard Nixon where the infamous “Southern Strategy” was implemented and “War on Drugs” started.
The Libertarian Party of the United States is a minor party and it is unlikely to win the election. The party supports the classical liberal premises such as individual liberties and laissez-faire economics. Even though the Libertarian Party could not secure any electoral college votes, they succeeded to get nearly 4.5 million votes across the United States in the 2016 elections.
- Getting to know three major presidential candidates: Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Jo Jorgensen
The Republican Party’s candidate President Donald J. Trump was a real estate developer based in Manhattan before he started his political career. He also starred in his reality TV show “The Apprentice” and made cameo appearances in a few shows and films. After he was elected for presidency in 2016, he became the first US president who had never held any other elected office nor worked at a government post such as the military.
The Donald Trump Presidency was among the most controversial ones. President Trump has become the third president to be impeached yet he was not removed from the office as the Senate acquitted the president from the charges of “obstruction of Congress” and “abuse of power”. The House of Representatives decided to rule against President Trump on the aforementioned grounds due to his alleged request to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky for investigating his political rival Joe Biden.
President Donald Trump’s noteworthy achievements during his presidency up until now were the Tax Reform, stabilizing the North Korea conflict, stabilizing Israel’s relationship with their neighbouring Arabic countries, ending ISIS, and starting the peace talks in Afghanistan. Furthermore, it is also important to acknowledge that during the 4-year Trump administration no new wars have been started even though the Iran-US relationship became a lot more hostile, as a result of the Trump administration’s revoking of the Iran nuclear deal.
The Trump presidency has caused as many negative results as well, if not more. Most important criticism one can make to the administration could be the increased right wing radicalization and the issue of police brutality, which resulted in the Black Lives Matter protests in the previous months, after an African-American citizen, George Floyd, was brutally murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A different issue in which the president was criticized heavily was the harsh immigration laws which caused many children to be separated from their parents in the US-Mexico border. Another issue that Trump has failed is fulfilling his 2016 campaign promise of decreasing the US national debt. The administration did not only fail in this promise, but increased the national debt by 36% since they took the office.
Former Vice President Joe Biden is the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. Biden has served in the Congress as a Senator from 1973 until 2009 after which he served as the Vice President of the US under Barack Obama administration.
As a Senator from Delaware in the US Congress, Joe Biden sponsored 42 bills that were enacted. Among those, 19% of them were on the issues of Government operations and politics, 18% crime and law enforcement, 17% international affairs, 11% armed forces and national security, 10% economics and finance, 9% civil rights and liberties/minority issues, 8% science/technology/communications, and 8% health.
One of the most important highlights of Joe Biden as a Senator was The Violence Against Women Act, which Vice President Biden has mentioned in the Democratic Primart Debates as his “proudest” achievement. The federal bill Joe Biden introduced is believed to decrease spouse related violence by 64% from 1993 to 2010, as a result of a greater change in the culture related to gender-based violence.
In 1995 Joe Biden supported to “freeze federal spending” which, in his words, includes “social security”. Vice President Biden then denied these words and promised to increase social security. Biden’s view towards trade and finance seems complicated, as he supported NAFTA and increasing trade ties with the People's Republic of China before but in a more recent interview agreed that protectionism may be implemented to save American jobs. An important criticism against Joe Biden by both his own party and by the other parties is his support and affirmative vote to the Iraq War when he was Senator.
A recent controversy rose about the Democratic candidate due to his son Hunter Biden’s contacts in Ukraine. A New York Post article claimed that Hunter Biden was allegedly in contact with a Ukrainian businessman, Vadym Pozharskyi, who offered him a bribe in exchange for US to pressure Ukrainian prosecutors to stop investigating Burisma.
Dr. Jo Jorgensen is the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. Although the Electoral College in the United States political system makes the chances of third parties to be elected to presidency or Congress really difficult, Dr. Jorgensen is pursuing a political campaign to change the situation in favor of third parties. Other than her political career as a lifelong Libertarian, she is a senior lecturer of Psychology.
- What policies each presidential candidate offers to execute if they are elected to the office?
The global pandemic is one of the most crucial topics that the US president will have to deal in the year ahead. Despite the efforts, the US has failed to curb the spread of the virus just like the rest of the world. Now that the lockdowns and other Covid related restrictions have failed, presidential candidates dispute what is the best way to deal with the crisis. On one side, Joe Biden favors a national mask mandate while Donald Trump does not. The White House and Centers for Disease Control have published a three phase reopening plan which is likely to proceed under the Trump administration. It could be inferred from the rhetorics of Donald Trump and Joe Biden that Trump aims to open the economy a lot sooner than Joe Biden, who considers a much slower approach of lifting Covid-19 restrictions. Donald Trump claims that the virus is about to be over while many public health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci claims that this winter is going to be harder for the US than the previous spring. Biden has also tweeted several times that he will listen to the health experts and move according to their recommendations regarding the Covid-19. Dr. Jorgensen expressed that the heavy bureaucracy and inefficiency in the public healthcare system inhibits the spread of Covid-19 tests and treatments. She intends to eliminate the public health system in favor of a free-market health system.
Economics & Trade
Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump use very similar but vague rhetoric when it comes to economics. They both say things such as keeping jobs in America, strengthening the middle-class, decreasing unemployment and strengthening manufacturing jobs. The only difference that two candidates hold in the internal economic policy is while Trump wants to decrease the taxes, Biden wants to increase the taxes and use them for welfare. Furthermore it is also noteworthy that Trump aims to decrease the national debt, which he failed to do in his first term, while Joe Biden has not made such a promise. A Democratic administration in the White House could potentially mean a higher inflation due to increased government spending yet a faster solution to the economic crisis as a result of the stimulated demand on Keynesian assumptions. Jorgensen campaign made the promise that the government barriers will be shut down and bailouts will stop, as well as the taxes decrease. Jorgensen also promised to block any new government borrowing as long as she holds the office.
Joe Biden and Donald Trump are not having different opinions about the trade war. Both candidates have expressed similar foreign policies when it comes to China and the trade war. Despite President Trump’s claims that Joe Biden will not be tough against China, Joe Biden responded by stating that China has unfair trade practices and human rights violations, especially regarding Uighurs and PRC’s threats towards Taiwan.
When it comes to the United States elections, foreign policy may not be the biggest difference amongst candidates. However this does not seem to be the case in the 2020 election as the Republican Candidate approaches the foreign policy in a completely different way than the previous Democratic or Republican presidents.
Some similar promises that all three candidates give in their presidential campaigns are to end the wars in the Middle East and bring the US troops back to the US.
On the topic of Iran, candidates fall in disagreement as Joe Biden supports to reinitate the Iran Nuclear Deal while Donald Trump wants to keep the status quo. Jo Jorgensen claims a completely non-interventionist foreign policy to turn the US into a “Giant Switzerland, armed and neutral”, as in her own words.
The relation of Europe and US has been tight since the first months of Trump presidency. The US president was not as warm to their European NATO allies as his predecessors. Four more years of Trump presidency may result in even worse relations with the US especially given that the US president pressured European NATO countries to increase their military spendings in the previous years. On the other hand Joe Biden aims to rebuild the US-European relationships and is less likely to have a strict attitude against the other NATO members regarding their military spendings.
An important internal issue discussed in the American politics is the Second Amendment and gun rights. Both major parties have strict and different opinions about the subject as the Democrats believe that availability of guns cause the gun violence epidemic that America faces today while Republicans and Libertarians claim that every citizen should be able to access by buying a gun given they do not have a criminal record or mental health issue. Trump and Biden and Jorgensen are all in line with the stances of their parties. Despite the common opinion on the Democratic base and leadership being anti-gun, it is important to note that a possible Democratic administration is not likely to limit the access to the guns. In the United States Constitution it is clearly stated that every individual has the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment and the conservative majority Supreme Court would likely overrule any major steps Democrats can take about the subject.
One of the key points of the Biden campaign is the address to climate change. This topic also was an important subject during the presidential debates when both candidates were asked about how they are planning to tackle the subject. Joe Biden has supported a plan, known as the Green New Deal, which includes government spendings regarding the creation of renewable energy related jobs in the US. Joe Biden also promised to return to the Paris Agreement which the US removed their signatory status under the Trump administration. Biden's plan on the status of the oil industry is somewhat in question as the campaign has said they will remove fracking and they also said they are only intending to remove subsidies to the oil industry.
Donald Trump claims that the US is already doing a good job regarding pollution and climate change, blaming other countries as the cause of the crisis. Donald Trump opposes the renewable energy plans that the Democratic Party members proposed based on the price of the projects. Trump claims that such regulations on the oil industry and a possible ban on fracking may result in further unemployment.
Jo Jorgensen offers Nuclear energy as an alternative to the status quo of the energy industry, similar to France who obtains 75% of their energy resources from Nuclear power. The libertarian candidate claims that when the barriers and subsidies for the oil industry are removed the public and corporations will make a more educated decision regarding the climate than the politicians. She opposes the Green New Deal, claiming that it will cost 100 trillion dollars to taxpayers.
Immigration was one of the most popular issues in the Trump campaign at the 2016 elections, while being the most unpopular among the voter base of their opposition. Donald Trump aims to decrease the immigration and takes actions such as constructing a border wall in the US-Mexico border. The Biden and Jorgensen campaigns both promise to be welcoming to legal immigrants and stopping the wall construction.
- What US Elections mean for Europe and the rest of the world?
The US election will likely determine the future of economic stabilization. As the largest economy in the world, it is crucial for the rest of the world that the US economy opens up and markets to be more active. Also the foreign policies that either US administration will implement is crucial. Despite both candidates expressing that they will continue the trade war, four more years of Trump administration likely means a harsher approach US will implement.
President Trump’s attitude towards Europe is an important risk for the European economies. Even though it is unlikely that the president will implement any trade sanctions against European nations, if he succeeds in forcing European countries to push their military spendings to 4% as the NATO agreement dictates, this will likely mean a harder time for European economies to get out of the current recession. On the other hand Biden might be more likely to collaborate with the European leaders.
- US House and Senate elections and how could the results affect the global recession?
On some key issues both candidates that are likely to win the 2020 election have similar promises. Both candidates promise to reduce unemployment and get out of the recession. This, however, might be harder for both parties if the Congress election result and Presidential election results don’t match.
In October 2020 both parties tried to reach an agreement on a bill that would provide relief for the economic crisis caused by Covid-19. Yet because the Senate has Republican majority, the House of Representatives have Democratic majority, and the White House has a Republican administration the two parties needed to compromise, making a bill less likely to succeed. As a result, the bill could not be written and both parties are now waiting for the results of the election. If the election results in a similar combination on the Executive and Legislative branches, it may still be unlikely that a relief bill, at least an effective one, can pass.
- What could go wrong with this election?
In the recent months president Donald Trump tried to discredit the election by criticizing the mail-in voting and USPS. There is a significant amount of speculation that if Donald Trump loses the election he might end up not accepting it and the election may in the end be decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. Recently a progressive judge, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, passed away after which the President appointed a conservative judge, Amy Coney Barret. Right now there are 6 conservative and 3 liberal justices before the election.
Another four years of the Trump administration may result in more US protectionism and undermining of the global trade principles. This may result in the global recession to recover in a much slower fashion as such a US policy is likely to push regional unions or individual countries to protectionism as well. On the other hand, the Biden administration is aiming to implement expensive government programs and in order to fund these government programs the US government will either tax their citizens and corporations or rely on national debt. Taxing the citizens would likely not yield the result Democratic party expects as they rely on the demand side of economics to work in their favor. Taxing the companies will make the companies more vulnerable to the recession and potentially lead quite a lot to bankruptcy, which would result in massive disruptions in production and a spike in unemployment.
No matter which of the three candidates will win, a long winter of recessions and health crisis awaits the United States and the rest of the world.
Ali Kaan Aydın
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