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Analysing the American Election Extravaganza Of 2020

Aakash Agarwal

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The year 2020 has been a year unusual to others, to say the least. The ongoing coronavirus has put a halt on everything whether it be the economic situation or even the political situation. Not long before, we had the race between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Conventions, both competing for a place to run against the incumbent Donald Trump, as the President of the United States. Eventually, Biden won the democratic ticket. Unexpected events have unfolded since. The death of George Floyd created a huge stir in America dividing the country on opinions of race and politics. Kanye West even announced his plans to run for President, apparently being endorsed by Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.  So many things going on together and with only three months to go for the Presidential elections, the atmosphere in America doesn’t seem like that of an election year. The pandemic is the prime reason behind that, but there are so many other things as well.

The Process of the Presidential Election

Before talking about the two candidates, it is important to understand how the election process works since it is very different from that of India. The election for the President of the USA is done separately from the legislative (The Senate and House of Representatives). The two main parties, Republicans and Democrats have small primaries and caucuses which are meetings of sorts in various states all over the country to decide the candidate from their party. When the two candidates are chosen, debates and campaigning is done, followed by voting. An electoral college is formed by the states of America and elections are held. Different states have different strengths for their college, keeping in mind the population of the particular state.

The total number of seats is 538 and to become the President, a candidate needs to cross 270 seats. Since the division of seats is done on population, states like California and New York carry much more weight. The process from this point is more confusing. If a candidate wins the majority of the seats in a particular state, instead of the number of seats he has won goes into his account, but rather it is the total number of seats in the state that go into his account and it is said that he has ‘won the state’. For example, California has the most number of seats with 55 and hypothetically, if Biden wins 38 seats in the state, he gets the majority of the state. Not only that, in the total count he will get 55 seats to his name. Overall, whichever candidate reaches 270 seats in the college becomes the President. Now, let us look at the candidates.

 As of now, we have two candidates. Donald Trump from the Republican Party and Joe Biden from the Democratic Party as the leading candidates. The campaign has not gone into full swing as of now and the presidential debates are yet to be held. All this said; let’s look at the two candidates.

 The Incumbent – DONALD TRUMP

Starting with the incumbent Donald Trump; he has had little to no opposition when it comes to being endorsed by the Republican Party. The main reason behind this is the simple fact that he is the incumbent and has maintained a certain level of support in his key demographics. He has higher approval ratings than any other politician from the Grand Old Party (GOP) or the Republicans. Nonetheless, not every member has shown unequivocal support. Former presidential candidate from the Republican Party, Mitt Romney had voted to convict Trump during the infamous impeachment trials of early 2020. The economy has played to his advantage, at least before the pandemic and Trump does not shy away from taking the credit. Nonetheless, there are a few things that have played a role in the fall of his approval ratings. At the forefront, we have the mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak in America.

Currently, 4.1 million people have contracted the disease and considering that Trump has previously ridiculed the ability of the virus to spread and not impose restrictions has reflected the lack of leadership. Second, we have an issue that has not been at the forefront of Presidential elections for the last 3-4 races. The issue of race and institutionalised racism has taken America by a storm and Trump has not managed to control it. He has not openly talked about facing the issue of race but has called the protestors thugs and terrorists. Even though bold stances like this worked in 2016, they do not seem to be effective this time around when the issue is as sensitive as a race. With these things in mind, let’s look at the Democratic nominee and former Vice President under the Obama administration, Joe Biden.

The Nominee – JOE BIDEN

Joe Biden was relatively late to coming forward with his candidature if we compare it to the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who had been talking about their campaign for long before the start of the democrat party’s caucuses.  This lack of early preparation was seen during the Iowa caucus and the primary in New Hampshire in which Biden didn’t perform very well. But eventually, things started to fall in place, with the regular debate over Sanders electability and Warren’s early withdrawal, Biden was eventually selected to be the Democratic presidential nominee. All this proposes the question that is Biden the best that Democrats have to offer, to go against Trump. Now even though a lot of voters think that his policies may not be as radical or as glaring as those of Sanders and Warren, he has been gaining the popular vote time and again. The political scientists within the party say that people just consider Biden to be more electable.

Even though there are some question marks over his leadership ability and his ability to talk to people in a sense which creates a different political wave (something Trump did pretty well in 2016). Nonetheless, we have seen during the Obama presidency what Biden is capable of in terms of team management and keeping his administration smooth. Further, Biden is gaining more edge in political leadership after he had openly criticised the current President over his handling of the pandemic and the protests. All this is something that the political scientists have talked about the two leaders and there are differences in opinion. But one thing that is not as subjective is the polling data that various news agencies have collected.

Status of Polling Data and Opinion Polls

The latest polling data, as of 9th June by RealClearPolitics shows a lead in favour of Biden by 6 points as he stands on 46%, as opposed to Trump’s 40% approval rate. Similarly, NPR (+8), NY Times (+14), Fox News (+12) and Quinnipiac(+15) all suggest Biden having a huge lead over the president. It is important to mention that the past few months have shown Trump’s worst approval ratings during his tenure, going down to 38%. He, without a doubt, will improve his ratings and consequently improve his numbers in the poll. So, it is not advisable to consider Biden to be the new President, just yet. Also, a data as general as this one is not usually considered to be a clear indicator of who will be winning, as was seen back in 2016 when Hilary had an advantage of 4-5% by the same data  To better understand the polling data we need to divide the data into two different categories.

The first is the situation in the swing states and secondly, the situation of the key demographics and the handling of various issues. An important note is that a lot of states are considered to be predominantly Red (Republican) and Blue (Democrats) states. This division is done, keeping in mind the dominance of the said party in the state in the previous elections as well as the general polling data. The states which do not fall under this category are the swing states. In the upcoming election, seven states have been identified by most of the political scientists as the swing states. These are Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Different networks consider different states to be swing states but on average these 7 states have been the most common. It is important to note that Trump won all of these states back in 2016. It is also worth mentioning that Biden has led the state of Texas which has been predominantly a red state, and so Trump is expected to win the state back even though a lot of journalists have started to consider Texas to be a swing state. Data between 17th and 22nd June collected by NY Times/Siena poll shows a huge advantage for Biden. 

Comparing the current numbers to that of 2016, we see that Trump has completely lost Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which he won by margins of less than 1 point, and is now trailing by 11, 11 and 10 respectively. Moving on North Carolina and Arizona have shown a smaller advantage as Biden leads by 9 and 7 points respectively. Florida is an interesting state which is considered vital for Trump’s re-election and he won it narrowly in 2016 by 1.6 but is currently trailing by 6 points. All this said, one has to keep in mind two things. First that most of these polls showed an advantage for Hilary as well but she lost these battleground states but second, her advantage was not as big as that of Biden. One would not be surprised if Trump manages to cut down the advantage in these swing states and also manage to win one or two conservative states, but will this be enough for him to regain presidency?

Going by the same source, looking at the key demographics, Biden leads by 74 points with black voters, 39 points with Hispanic voters, 34 points with young voters (18-29), 22 points and 18 points with independent voters. This shows a key advantage that will play in the favour of Biden. Back in 2016, Trump won the election with a huge advantage, running up to 70 points, with independent voters, men, older voters and white people. This time the gap has cut so much that Biden leads in 3 of Trump’s key demographics i.e. independent, men and older voters. This seems like a much more negative trend than one would have predicted. Moving on, key issues like COVID and racial issues have highly favoured Biden. People have started to doubt Trump’s leadership in these two aspects and considering that these are the two main issues of 2020 for America, Biden does seem to be favoured. On the other hand, Trump is preferred when it comes to immigration, economy and job creation. Trump has made it a point to claim the growth of the US economy before the pandemic to his benefit and that seems to be in his favour.

Conclusion

Even though we are just 3-4 months before the elections happen, all of these are predictions and pre-election polls. A lot of things like the presidential debates, widespread campaigning and the actual Election Day turnout, all can change the way things stand today. This was seen back in 2016 to work in favour of Trump but that was because the difference between the two candidates was too small. That may not be the case this time but nothing can be said with certainty. Kanye West has pulled out of the race and it will be fair to say that he did not have much ground before as well. As of now, even though the polls indicate one thing, anything can happen. There is without a doubt a bit of uncertainty and just like 2016, the door is still open for both candidates to win the White House.

Aakash Agarwal is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Economics (Honours) from Doon University, Dehradun, India. He has a research interest includes Global Economy, Financial Economics and IR Theory. His work has been published by the Diplomatist Magazine, South Asia Democratic Forum and the Kootneeti.

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Americas

Hiroshima and the Peace of the Bomb

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Seventy five years ago this week, the world witnessed a cataclysm that was to change the nature of war forever:  The atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and worse — while the Japanese argued among themselves about whether and how to surrender — a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later on August 9th.  Now there was no other rational choice, and the Japanese gave up.

If anything good ever came out of a war, it was the generous peace.  The US helped in the reconstruction of the defeated nations.  As a teenaged student in London, I remember visiting Germany a dozen years after the war ended.  Major centers had been flattened by the bombing.  In Hamburg, one would see a few residential buildings and then ruins as far as the eye could see as if a massive earthquake had hit.  A never ending horror across all major cities and a shortage of labor.  So the Turks came … and stayed.  Welcome then, not so much now.   

The Germans were humble — a humility that would gradually diminish with the country’s resurgence as one observed over succeeding decades.  Cleanliness and order are part of the national psyche, particularly the latter.  Everything in order — ‘Alles in ordnung‘.  It even applies on a personal level as someone might ask exactly that if you appear disturbed.  It then means, ‘Everything okay?’

A grease spot on the otherwise fresh tablecloth at breakfast, my fastidious six-year old daughter complained.  It was whisked away with apologies and immediately replaced.  Order restored.  Ordnung muss sein says the German proverb.

In dollar terms, Germany is now the world’s fourth largest economy, Japan the third.  The world has not ended despite economic interests being often cited as a cause of war.  In fact, we are grateful for their products judging by the numbers of their automobile names in the US.  Japan appears to have eclipsed the famed auto giants of the past, GM, Ford and Chrysler and UK icons long forgotten.  And Donald J. Trump has a beef with both countries and is busy pulling out troops from Germany.   Of course the giant dragon of exporters to the US, namely China, is for President Trump our public enemy number one.

The bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the end, merely the beginning, and at the back of our minds remains the terrifying hope that it is not the beginning of the end.

Following the US, there soon were other nuclear powers:  the UK and the Soviet Union followed by France, then China.  After China, India was not to be left behind, and after India the same logic applied to Pakistan.  Then there is Israel seeking external security while like diseased fruit, it rots from the inside.  And let us not forget nutty North Korea.

When the US and the Soviet Union faced off with thousands of nuclear weapons, the strategists produced the theory of mutually assured destruction.  Its acronym MAD was closer to the truth than its Pentagon proponents could ever have imagined for they would have destroyed not just each other but the world.

Even India and Pakistan with 100-plus weapons each could cause a nuclear winter from the fall-out and the dust covered skies.  The subsequent crop losses and famines would kill many more across the world than the devastation wrought by the bombs.  It is just one more reason why nation states could eventually become obsolete.

Fortunately, for the human race, nuclear war is more potent in the threat than in the execution; the latter  would certainly certify MAD.  The response to a military threat carrying the phrase ‘by all means necessary’ is enough to cool things down quickly.  It was Pakistan’s reply to India’s threat to expand an incident in the disputed Kashmir region with an attack on mainland Pakistan.  In that sense, nuclear weapons have become a sort of insurance policy.  Pakistan and India have fought several major wars but none since both sides acquired nuclear weapons.  The cost is unthinkable, and one hopes will remain so in the minds of strategists.

Such is the world my generation is leaving to you:  flawed but holding together all the same.

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China Replacing Russia as the Boogeyman in the U.S. Presidential Campaign

Danil Bochkov

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During the 2016 U.S. Presidential bid, Russia was picked as a scapegoat to justify the loss endured by the Democratic party candidate. Moscow was vilified for interfering in the election via the dissemination of false information. After the election, a judicial investigation was launched, ending with no evidence of the collusion.

Despite that fact, in 2017 and 2018, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions against Russian entities. This led to the further aggravation of already sour ties undermined by the Ukrainian crisis in 2014. As an act of reprisal for Moscow’s alleged meddling into the conflict, U.S. Congress initiated new economic sanctions.

Russia became what can be regarded as a boogeyman to be reprimanded for whatever misfortune happens — be it ex-spy Sergei Skripal’s poisoning in 2018 or Russia’s alleged bombings of peaceful residents in eastern Aleppo. Russia got blamed for everything, even though the evidence was missing.

In 2017 the U.S. and Russia crossed swords in a diplomatic row by cutting staff numbers and closing each other’s consulates. Since then, both countries have been experiencing alienation from one another, culminating in the recent cancellation of several arms control agreements (i.e., INF, Open Skies).

By the same token, the U.S. has recently upped the ante in handling thorny issues with China, which came under the spotlight during the American presidential campaign. Both candidates — J. Biden and D. Trump — appeal to their supporters using China, competing for the reputation of leaders with the toughest stance towards Beijing.

China is an obvious target of criticism for the U.S. President, who is adamant about securing his second term in office. It is hard to find any other positive agenda as soon as he failed to deliver an efficacious response to the pandemic, which has already put the country’s economy at risk of recession with a gloomy long-term economic outlook.

Russia can no longer alone serve as a scapegoat for misdoings of U.S. politicians. Such rhetoric has been present in American media for such a long time that it has eventually lost some of its appeal to the U.S. audience.

Following a blueprint tailored for Russia, the U.S. has resorted to a maximum pressure campaign against China. In 2018 a full-scale trade war erupted and was followed by sanctions introduced against the most vital industry for China’s global rise — the hi-tech sector. Huawei and ZTE were swiped from the U.S. market. The U.S. also has been widely applying its longer-used instrument of sanctions not solemnly limited to hi-tech giants. Chinese officials in Xinjiang and foreigners doing business in Hong Kong also fell under various restrictions.

As for now, the pendulum has swung from economic agenda to geopolitics and ideology — with the latter being a novelty for U.S. policy towards China. Despite that, China and Russia were already labelled “rival powers … that seek to challenge American values” in 2017, Trump’s national strategy.

In January 2020, Secretary of State M. Pompeo called the Communist Party of China (CPC) the “central threat of our times.” As for Russian ideology, the country was already eloquently described as an “evil state” during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. In July 2020, Mr. Pompeo called on the Chinese people to help “change the behavior” of their government. Thus, he designated CPC as an ideological and independent entity separate from Chinese citizens.

In order to sharpen the rhetoric, U.S. politicians stopped addressing Xi Jinping as “president,” calling him “general secretary” instead — an act which deprives Mr. Xi of political legitimacy usually bestowed upon the elected leader. Another menacing sign is that the U.S. is reportedly reviewing a proposal to ban CPC members from traveling to the U.S., which would basically mean the start of an active phase of ideological confrontation.

Similar to the 2017 Russian-American diplomatic row, today the U.S. and China are also exchanging attacks on each other’s diplomatic missions. For example, from geostrategic perception, in mid-July, the U.S. officially recognized China’s claims in the South China Sea as “unlawful” and made it clear that its strengthening of the policy with regard to SCS is aimed at halting China’s use of coercion.

Both countries do not want to play alone in a tit-for-tat game. The U.S. has already summoned its allies to form a group of democratic countries to oppose the CPC. France and Britain have recently bowed to long-term U.S. pressure to convince allies to steer clear of the Chinese 5G technology.

China is also gearing up by upholding contacts with its tried and tested partners — namely Russia. Despite a minuscule slide in bilateral trade (a 4% decline compared to 2019) amid COVID-19, political cooperation has been developing. In early July, both countries demonstrated close coordination in high-level international organizations by vetoing extension of cross-border aid in Syria. During a telephone call to Vladimir Putin on July 8, President Xi vowed to intensify coordination with Russia internationally, including in the UN.

Russia and China currently maintain close and regular cooperation. According to the Russian ambassador to China A. Denisov, up to now, both presidents have held four telephone conversations and are currently working on preparation for a state visit of the Russian President to China, as well as on the participation of Xi Jinping in SCO and BRICS forums in Russia with open dates.

A new trend in China-Russia cooperation can be noted in the sphere of coordination of bilateral actions to oppose Western ideological pressure in the media. On July 24, spokespeople of the Ministries of foreign affairs held a video-conference on the information agenda. The parties recognized Western powers’ attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of China and Russia by disseminating fake news and placing restrictions on journalists’ work.

U.S. attempts to alienate and isolate China provide Beijing with no other choice but to seek further expansion of cooperation with like-minded states, be it Russia or any other country open for cooperation.

From our partner RIAC

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Origin of US foreign policy: An Analytical Review

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Origin of US foreign policy by Pat Paterson:An Analytical Review

After the start of the republic, the nature of the foreign policy of the US was unilateral. By the end of cold war, the President Clinton changes the traditional nature of Foreign Policy which was traditionally isolationism to ‘exceptionalism’ (to expand its overseas economic and political initiatives which were totally opposite to the traditional practices.)This manuscript is divided into four parts; each part defines us about the history of US foreign policy.

In the first 150 years of US history, the US tried to remain geopolitically isolated from its neighboring countries. In this regards the US have geopolitical advantage having the ocean boarders. US first President, once in his speech told that US should avoid making alliances that might draw them into wars, but it can interact for trade and commerce. US had the policy of unilateral outlook that makes it stand alone among the developed states like China and Russia, as it refused to ratify International treaties. US even did not ratify the CRC (The Convention on Rights of the Child). In this article the author tells us about the 4 to 5 reasons why the US did not ratify the treaties.

US have no need to adapt different international treaties because it has sufficient legal and social protections rules for its citizens. It has no need to adapt anything from outside.  Also the US authorities had the fear that international government may try to force them by using these treaties. The other reason, the author tell us about why US not ratified the international treaties is that the foreign policy is the multi-faced topic, just to focus on the human rights and democracy, the nation have other interests like trade and security arrangements which is also important part of the negotiation.

The US is the only state in the world that has not ratified the ‘The Convention on Rights of the Child’ CRC. The religious and other Foreign Policy analysts reject this treaty and have a claim that it might threaten the rights of the parents, which I think is totally baseless explanation of this rejection.

The author in this article further described the four schools of thoughts regarding US foreign policy, that is based on the Foreign Policy recommendations for US citizens. They are, ‘Jeffersoniasm’ (the political doctrine and principles held by Thomas Jefferson that center around a belief in states’ rights, a strict interpretation of the federal constitution, confidence in the political capacity or sagacity of masses), ‘Hamiltonianism’ (the political ideas or doctrines associated with Alexander Hamilton, especially those stressing a strong central government and protective tariffs), ‘Jacksonianism’ (relating to Andrew Jackson, his ideas, the period of his presidency, or the political principles or social values associated with him), and ‘Wilsonianism’ (it describe a certain type of foreign policy advice. this term comes from the suggestions and proposals of the President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)).

The ‘Exceptionalism’ policy was not just like matter of consideration in the early days of US but in the 21st century it is still a point of pride for many US citizens. The ‘Exceptionalism’ group considers the philosophy of the priorities of the American first and then for the rest of the world. In this example I would like to quote the example of the ‘America First’ vision of the President Trump, this philosophy is used for protecting the values, nationalism and patriotism of Americans.In my opinion, according to this debate the US represented the common citizens of its state through its systems and policies. 

The second part of this manuscript is based on the expansions of the US position during after the World Wars. According to my analysis, the US continued its strategies of unilateralism until it have the fear of another emerging super power, after the expansion of soviet.

Role of Woodrow Wilson is important here as he implement the policies of neutrality in the first World War, President Woodrow Wilson adhered to the advice to kept the US out of the European conflicts when the first 100 Americans died on the Lusitania in May 1915.He also tried to stop the conflicts among the different states, so he tried to implement a new world order that is the League of Nations. After the second world war the focus of US leaders quickly change from inward to outwards as they had the fear of soviet expansion. Its priorities of foreign policies gets changes by changing in the global world order from unipolar to bipolar (the two global super powers).After the World War 2 its focus had changed from only US national security to world stability.

Here in this part of the given article, the author tells us about the two important features of US foreign policy development that is: (1) The Federalism, and (2) the dispensation of powers among different branches of government. The first one, the federalism, is the most important but a controversial issue since the start of the US. Second element is the separation of power between the execution, legislative and judicial branches of government. 

After the cold war the administration of the US is divided into four major eras of different Presidents, some are from democratic and the some are from republican. This era has dominated by globalization. After the world war, the President Clinton and President Obama have the same type of government, they used the smart power and promote multilateralism while the President Bush and President Trump used the hard power and promote unilateralism. Main focus of Donald Trump’s foreign policy may on the military rather than development or diplomacy. Trump pursues the ‘America First’ foreign policy. Trump’s doctrine is nationalism; his main focus is on the individuals of America. Trump use this philosophy of America firs for protecting their value, nationalism, and patriotism.

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