✏️ Grace Couch | @GCouch99
We’ve all had a laugh at Trump, who has dominated the world of memes for the last four years, but he is also the President of the largest economy and most powerful country on the planet. With the end of his Presidential term right around the corner, Naked Politics is explaining the US Electoral system and the issues relevant to young people. Keep an eye out for upcoming articles breaking down the election in a way that makes sense to young people.
Why should I care about the US election?
The US is often described as one of the most influential countries. It has the 3rd largest population, an economy producing a quarter of the world’s wealth, and it is most often known for its military presence. (BBC 2020). Spending more on defence than any other country, for many years the US has solidified its description by political scientists as the most powerful country in the world, although the increasing threat of China as a ‘superpower’ is beginning to play a role in American foreign policy. The foreign policy of the President of the US, therefore, has implications that reverberate across the globe.
The most obvious influence exerted by the US is cultural. We all watch American TV shows, listen to American music and share a language. This ‘Western’ culture shared by American and countries such as the UK has a significant impact on fashion, lifestyle and values held across the world. The actions of the US Government can have significant ramifications for how issues and events are understood beyond US borders. Many of the movements that have changed people’s lives in the UK have originated on US soil, for example:
- the Civil Rights Movement – many argue that the actions of Martin Luther King encouraged the uprising of Catholics in Northern Ireland
- the Stonewall Riots – achieving radical LGBT rights in the US, encouraging the first British Gay Pride March in 1972
- Black Lives Matter – most recently the death of George Floyd and the protests in Minneapolis sparking a resurgence of the debate in the UK, and many more.
In recent years the UK has overtaken the US in some cultural issues, such as legalising gay marriage, however, it has become apparent that the divisive language and aims of Donald Trump have had an effect on the views of British cCitizens. Many have written about the link between the election of Trump and Brexit, with similar cultural factors such as increasingly diverse demographics and the divide between the ‘educated liberal-elite’ and the voters that prioritise traditional values and less government intervention. Much of this is based around our personal experiences, something that is also amplified by the echo chamber of social media platforms. Similarly, the dissemination of information on social media also sees these views on similar cultural issues shared between the UK and the US, with soundbite clips of Trumpof the Trump shared far and wide. Unsurprisingly, many people believe that if the President says something, they have the right to believe in it too.
The Trump-Boris Johnson Bromance
Another reason the candidate for the US president is so important is due to the direct impact on British politics. Historically described as the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US, the leaders of both countries have made exceptions and exclusive agreements with each other. This is especially important post-Brexit, as the UK looks to create new trade deals with countries such as the US.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has criticised Trump’s competency as a leader in the past, however, now Johnson is occupying No.10 he has been criticised for staying silent on important issues such as race relations (Newstatesman 2020). Maintaining a good relationship with Trump could will help the UK get a better deal before we leave the EU in January 2021, but many argue they would not want a Trump-Johnson deal as it may compromise workers rights and food standards (cue everything you’ve heard about chlorinated chicken).
Who is being elected?
Both the President and some members of congress are being elected on 3rd November 2020, however, the number of local representatives elected has no effect on theeffect the separate Presidential vote. After competing against other members of their party to be the presidential candidate in primaries and caucuses, Joe Biden was elected the lead nominee for the Democratic Party and current president Donald Trump will be representing the Republican Party. You will also have seen that Kanye West has succeeded in registering for the Presidential ballot in the first few states. Read about how he could impact the election in this Naked Politics post!
As an incumbent (already in power) Donald Trump was unlikely to be challenged as the Republican candidate – there’s also a lot of evidence that incumbents are more likely to be successful in elections than new candidates. Presidential terms in the US are four years long and an individual can only serve two terms. Therefore, if Trump is re-elected this year, he will not be able to serve again after that. Technically a president can serve two non-consecutive terms e.g. if Trump lost in 2020, he could try again in 2024.
What do they stand for?
You are likely to have heard some of Trump’s most famous claims, especially those against women and ethnic minorities, or the ‘Muslim ban’ as the start of his leadership. His policies include reversing Obama’s landmark policy for the government to contribute to US citizens healthcare, also achieved through increasing the ability for states to control the requirements for Medicaid (unlike the UK it is not free – they must have medical insurance).
He has also rolled back environmental protections and regulations, with evidence of rising CO2 emissions and higher deaths from air pollution compared to the Obama administration (Ballotpedia 2020). Another contentious environmental issue is the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines – these support Trump’s promise of providing industrial jobs and boosting the economy but are at the cost of increasing the use of fossil fuels and destroying the sacred homes of many indigenous tribes.
Trump’s opponent, Joe Biden, has served as Vice-President under Obama (2008-2016). His 2020 campaign includes promises to end the mismanagement of the asylum system, address the climate emergency and reduce health care costs (Ballotpedia 2020). He is also addressing tricky issues such as holding gun manufacturers accountable, endingend the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, asin as well as aiming to shift from incarceration to prevention – a hot topic at the moment.
Biden is currently dominating the polls, especially among young people – many of which are vehemently anti-Trump. The Pew Research Centre shows voting preference at 68% for Biden vs 28% for Trump within 18-29-year-olds, whereas this trend swings the opposite way for over 50s. There is a level of scepticism around Biden however, as he is often viewed as one of the ‘old white men’ of the establishment, with his policies not swinging as far left as some would like. Despite this, he is currently polling significantly higher than Clinton was at the same point in the campaign in 2016.
Finally, Commentary on Kanye West is complex; for the moment, it has taken the focus away from Biden, while Trump remains at the centre of the US’ navigation of the Coronavirus pandemic. Whoever you’re looking at, however, shows that the Presidential race is heating up and we’re still around 4 months away from the election. If Kanye’s entrance has shown anything, it’s that the US system is complex and unpredictable, and needs understanding by all of us.
We want this series this commentary to be shaped by YOU, so please leave any questions you have about the US elections in the comments below.
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