Muzamil is a freelance writer with an expertise in global politics and international relations. He currently also works as a writer/contributor for Paradigm Shift. Apart from that, he loves to read and is socially active in philanthropic activities.
The beacon of democracy has been mired in a ferocious tug of war with respect to America’s 2020 Presidential election. The highly polarized America is currently poised to elect its 46th President in the coming election on 3rd November 2020. Incumbent President and Republican candidate, Donald Trump is aggressively pursuing his campaign for re-election against the erstwhile Obama’s confidant and Democrat candidate, Joe Biden.
Both have been actively pursuing debates on crucial matters in the U.S. presidential campaigns of September and October 2020. The points of discussion varied on multiple topics ranging from health, response to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate, to policies regarding China, gun control, corruption and crimes, racism, immigration, and cyber-terrorism.
Since 1908, the voters have not turned out to show such vigilance as they have shown in the 2020 Presidential election. According to the data from US Elections Project, more than 91 million voters out of the eligible 150 million have already submitted their votes ahead of the official polling day of 3rd November. In Texas, one of the red states, the level of voting has already surpassed 100% of the total turnout in the 2016 Presidential election.
2020 Presidential Election During a Pandemic
This unprecedented voter turnout has caused multiple difficulties for polling agencies. One of the reasons for this huge early voting is due to the COVID-19 pandemic as most of the ballots are received through the mail. The election officials have to attend to both, in-person voters and the ones who send their votes through United States Postal Service (USPS).
The traditional methods of elections have largely been upended by the pandemic. Donald Trump has already shown immense disdain for this electoral process by voicing grave concerns about the possibility of electoral fraud in mail-in ballots. Since various states do not allow their vote count to start before the election day, mail-in votes will be a burden on election officials because it will take weeks to show the actual results based on the credibility of the ballots submitted.
From unapproved signatures to the unwarranted names written on the ballots, many mail-in votes already seem redundant in their authenticity. Although checks and balances are in place by the election officials, the chances of voter suppression by political parties and foreign interference, as was the major contender in the 2016 election, in ballots are still on the table.
The Road to the Supreme Court
Donald Trump has regressed from the position of peaceful transition of democracy that has been the hallmark of democracy according to Barack Obama. Trump urged his voters to appear in person for submitting ballots in their respective precincts. On multiple occasions, Trump has been found indicating that he would not accept the results of the 2020 Presidential election and may submit the matter of election to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This shows that the election results will be challenged in the Supreme Court if the election does not produce a huge margin for the winning candidate. Since Joe Biden is already ahead with 9% points in the national polls with a 52-43 lead, it shows that Trump is not winning the popular vote. However, polls are not a reliable platform to judge who will win the elections because almost the same ratio was seen in the 2016 election wherein Hilary Clinton was winning.
The Electoral Engine
Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million but bagged 30 states with 3014 Electoral College Voting (ECVs) in his electoral win. Since the U.S. presidential system is based on the ECV system rather than the popular voting system, the results vary from the popular vote count of polls. According to the ECV, each state is granted the electoral votes, which are basically the number of representatives and senators each state holds.
This allocation of the electoral votes is based on the population of that state. So, the minimum number of electoral votes a state must have, under this system, is three, two senators and at least one House representative. So even, Montana, a sparsely populated state, has at least 3 electoral votes. There are 538 electoral votes in total for the 50 states and Washington DC. They contain 100 senators, 2 from each of the 50 states and DC, and 436 House of Representatives.
Washington DC was given electoral representation in 1961. To win a presidency, a candidate has to bag 270 electoral colleges. The ECV system entails that the population of each state does not directly vote for the President, instead they vote for the electoral colleges, who are actually representatives of the contesting political parties, who, in turn, vote for the candidate in the state who has won in the popular votes. Only Maine and Nebraska allow their ECVs to be split among the contesting candidates.
Winning over the Undecided States
Although there’s no federal law or constitutional provision that requires electors to vote for the party that nominated them, it is more of a tradition than a legal precedent. States are mostly divided into party lines despite having plenty of voters of other political parties as well. So, the candidates do not spend their time, money, and resources on the states having the majority of the population supports one political party; Democratic California or Republican Texas, for instance.
Instead, the greater proportion of their campaign funds is spent on the swing states or battleground states because that’s where the population is relatively evenly split between the two major political parties. These states become decisive in the election race as it remains unclear until the election results whether these states voted for the red (Republican) or blue (Democrat) candidate.
It was reported that more than 90% of Biden’s campaign money is spent on these states, while Trump and his Republican entities spent nearly 78 cents of every dollar on the swing states. The swing states that could make or break the U.S. presidential election results are Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona. These six states collectively represent 101 electoral colleges.
Polls represent the voter perception about the integrity of the contesting candidates and their convergence with the mandates of the respective candidates. In current polls, Biden’s 9-point margin is the same in Michigan, 8-point in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, 6 in Arizona, and 2 in Florida. Polls also favored Trump, since he has slightly more weight in the red states like Texas, North Carolina, Iowa, and Georgia.
Covid-19 Takes the Stage in the 2020 Presidential Election
Presidential debates remained significant in transforming the perceptions of eligible voters. The main points of discussion remained the economy and foreign affairs as has been forever, but a new topic was added to the list of the hottest topics of discussion, Covid-19. Since February 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken more than 220,000 lives in the U.S., with 99,000 as the highest cases reported in a day on 30th October 2020.
It became an Achilles heel for the incumbent President when on 2nd October, in a tweet, he and the first lady had, reportedly, tested positive for the virus. Since his return from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre, Trump has defied the harsh implications of the virus and downplayed it in front of the public by calling it the ‘China virus’. He received immense criticism for his audacity in holding rallies in Texas and Florida where the number of cases surged tremendously.
Trump’s office has routinely dismissed the federal health updates on the gravity of the virus, especially from Dr. Anthony Fauci. According to the ABC News Poll, just 35% of Americans approved of the way the President has dealt with the virus, whereas 72% held him accountable for the massive spread. Apart from that, he withdrew U.S. membership from the World Health Organization (WHO) for its alleged support of China.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who Will Win It All?
Trump’s campaign is also crucial for the 2020 Senate elections. Congress elections take place every two years, between two presidential elections. These mid-term elections call for the public vote for each member of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate seats, which are occupied for the next 6 years. Since the Senate plays a pivotal role in passing various federal laws, Democrats are closely seeking these seats.
The competitive race from Maine to Arizona depicts that the Democrats intend to retake the majority away from Republicans. Currently, the Senate is in majority of Republicans and the Senate Majority Leader has admitted that the 395 bills sitting in Senate would not get approved since their solutions are more prone to left-wingers. Hence, Trump’s re-election may favor results for Republicans.
Playing the Judicial Organ
Failing to respond to the Covid-19 protestors, Trump shifted his political gimmicks towards the Supreme Court. Since the death of an iconic liberal, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on 18th September, Trump called his shots by placing Amy Coney Barrett, a Republican candidate, in the seat vacated by the late Justice.
Though election officials have vowed to deliver an accurate count, Trump is steering the election dynamics towards the notion that the election results will be unacceptable and has hinted at the likelihood of the election being largely decided by the Supreme Court. In similar events, Republicans have already challenged various state laws over the counting of ballots received later than the election date.
Two significant Supreme Court decisions in the same field: the Pennsylvanian state was approved to take into account the ballots received three days later than 3rd November, the election date, while in the second decision the Supreme Court blocked the count of ballots received in Wisconsin after the election date. Due to this, the election official of Wisconsin has urged voters to go for in-person voting rather than mail-in ballots.
Trump’s push for Barrett has not really settled his success in the upcoming election because before Barrett’s installation in the Supreme Court there was already a conservative majority of 5-3. However, Chief Justice John Roberts aligned himself on such sides resulted in contradictory rulings in the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin cases. Confronting this racket, Biden clearly told the media that institutions such as the military would help vacate Trump from the White House if civil unrest ensues.
Wooing the People
Another pivotal point that came into the limelight during the presidential debates was the issue of Black Americans who despise Trump and support Joe Biden. In the wake of George Floyd’s shooting, protesters took to the streets giving firm rebuttals to the policies of racial injustice. The President claimed that the suburbs would be destroyed if Biden were to win the race, and Biden reciprocated by condemning Trump as racist.
Biden has pledged to start a task force that will reunite 545 immigrant children who had been separated from their parents in 2017-2018 after Trump’s ‘‘zero-tolerance’’ policy. Democratic Vice President nomination of Kamala Harris, who is a powerful woman of color fighting for working-class families, refugees, and defending immigrants, has been capturing immense support from the people of states where Latinos and Black are in a majority.
It is not surprising that the whole world is closely anticipating the outcome of America’s 2020 Presidential election, owing to its implications in both the domestic and international spheres. So far, multiple polls conducted by veritable organizations under refined algorithms depict Joe Biden as a leading candidate in the 2020 presidential race. So whatever the result might be, America and the world would have to wait longer than 3rd November to perceive the developments following the election.
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