Divided USA - A Continuation of Uncertainty or a 'Safe Choice'?

With the U.S. presidential elections unfolding today, the world is ready for what has been called the most important election in modern history. The incumbent president Donald Trump faces former vice president Joe Biden in a race that started long before the election day on Nov. 3, 2020.

Amidst a global pandemic, the American voter turnout has gradually changed this election year. Even though they had the option of voting by mail before 2020, it has now gained momentum because people do not want to be waiting in long lines and potentially contract the virus. That is why, as of Oct. 27, a week before elections, the record-breaking number of voters have already cast their ballot by mail – more than 90 million. If this trend goes on, this could be the year with the highest voter turnout since 1908.

Voting by mail was never conducted on such a large scale before and that is why people are questioning the reliability of this year’s elections. There are many possible problems at hand: ballots being rejected or not counted on grounds of being sent too late, or the signature not matching the one on the official document. As a matter of fact, over a million mail-in ballots could be disregarded, which could significantly influence the elections. In comparison, in 2016, less than 3 million votes determined the race between President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Voters in long lines. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Comments.

In order to maximize participation, some states prolonged the end date for the delivery of the mail-in ballots. In addition, other states have laws permitting the election officials from opening and counting the ballots until election day. That poses a fear that some of the votes will not be counted and could swing the elections.

Democratic candidate Joe Biden and the Democratic party are encouraging their supporters to vote earlier and especially by mail in order to avoid their vote not being counted. On the other hand, President Donald Trump and the Republican party advise their voters to vote in person as they believe that voting by mail is not reliable.

Trump’s biggest problem currently is the swing states – states which have been won by both Democrats and Republicans in the past. This year’s swing states are mostly in favor of Biden, and by a high margin.

If we are to believe the national polls, Biden is leading as well. “Even though Biden has a better chance of winning than Trump, it’s far from guaranteed,” said Ilya Levine, AUBG professor from the Department of Political Science and European Studies.

Looking at the previous elections alone, the polls failed to predict the right winner. In 2016, Republican candidate Donald Trump won the presidency despite the fact the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had a clear lead over him. Throughout the 2016 presidential elections, the polls in the swing states were severely undercounted, and that led to the wrong assumption that Clinton was going to win the presidency.

In the year that has seen a global pandemic and riots on the national level, when the USA is adjusting to the new normal, the election will come as icing on the cake. Whether Trump wins his second term, or he is defeated in favor of Biden, American politics will continue to be dividing.

The people are more diverged than ever. The first issue is the split between the Central for Disease Control and Prevention and the president. Unlike European countries, which mostly gave control of the coronavirus-related information to the health officials, in USA, there are two “teams” giving out information.

The racial questions have also stirred the fire during the last couple of months. Ever since the protests started in June, after the death of George Floyd, at least 25 people were killed while protesting. All of this has had an enormous impact on the stability of the nation as a whole.

People protesting the death of Breonna Taylor. Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan, Flickr.

 “The scandals, drama, and hysteria would continue. For one thing, it looks like Biden might try to pack the Supreme Court. That would create a major crisis,” Levine said.

According to Levine, the enlargement of the Supreme Court would favor the Democrats more than the Republicans, who are currently holding the majority. Even though that possibility has been present since F.D.R., it has gained momentum after the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Supreme Court Justice.

Since many Democrats opposed the idea of installation of the new Supreme Court judge only days before the elections, they are arguing that in the future the court should expand. This would enable them to influence the enforcement of the laws for the first time after Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, came to that position in 2015. McConnell stopped the appointment of the new Supreme Court judge at the beginning of 2016, because he wanted to wait for the inauguration of the new president. In 2020, he broke his own rule.

People protesting in front of the Supreme Court. Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan, Flickr.

The appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, a recent Republican addition to the Supreme Court, caused tensions with the American public due to the fact that she is an outspoken Christian. The Democrats fear she might influence the law, which would prohibit abortion and same-sex marriage. That is why she was the first judge in 151 years that was confirmed without a single vote from the minority party.

The result of the elections will be a good indicator of what kind of path the U.S. takes in the next four years.

According to Levine, USA’s deep polarization won’t end with electing the Democratic president because the differences are at the core of Americans’ beliefs. It’s now up to them to show which version of their country they like better. 


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