By the time the next GOFAD's Blog is written, there should be indications or the possible results of what has been referred to as the most consequential elections in the USA. Based on the trends in the polls and assessment of the data, it appears that former Vice President Biden should emerge as the 46th President. The state of a post American world would however extend beyond the Presidency to Democratic control of both the Congress and Senate.
What Polls and Data indicate
Evaluation of President Trump's overall performance is reflected in his 43% approval rating compared with 54% for Joe Biden. While on the major issues, the President's best approval rating of 54% for the economy exceeds Biden's at 45% they are below Biden's for Health care 43% to 57%; for COVID 41% to 57% and race relations 38%- 68%.
Among the issues with the greatest impact on voter appeal is the President's mishandling the coronavirus pandemic. The data released today show approximately 80,000 new infections per day that have persisted over the past week, the highest level since April. This is to be measured alongside the news that GDP growth has risen by 33%. While this is good news for President Trump, it has to be compared with 31% negative GDP growth in the third quarter, which still leaves the economy in a deep hole and its recovery, in reality, benefiting those at the top of the income scale. There is overwhelming evidence that the Trump administration provided multi-tax cuts to the richest Americans and corporations; and before COVID-19, cut food stamps and welfare programmes, and failed to provide financial support to low income households and small businesses during the pandemic.
Issues that Determine Choices
In the equation to affect the final outcome of the elections are the performances of the candidates in pivotal states such as Pennsylvania and Florida and battleground states including Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan some of which Trump flipped from Democrats in 2016. There are also demographic trends among special groups including urban women, black males, the elderly and Hispanic subgroups (Latinos, Cubans, Puerto Ricans), all of which can tilt the balance.
The emerging choices except for the Hispanic group, favour the platform being promoted by Biden-Harris that the economic trajectory need to follow the management of the health crisis. This is in contradiction to the Trump-Pence posture, intentionally denying the great risk of COVID-19, failure to implement a coherent pandemic strategy and touting the incredible view unsupported by the scientific data that the US is turning the bend in curbing the disease.
Much more than choices highlighting the coronavirus are the dangers of white supremacy, climate change, criminal justice, education, overturning the Affordable Care Act and immigration including the separation of the over 500 Hispanic children from their parents. In response, Biden has announced that one of his first acts as President would be to establish a Task Force to advise on the immediate strategies to unite these children with their parents.
Despite these trends, generally favorable to the Democrats, the elections are far from sealed and delivered. Pronouncements from the Trump campaign seem designed to foster voter intimidation, undermine the integrity of mail-in ballots which favour Democrats, blatant attempts to use the Supreme Court to subtract the votes from Democratic leaning states.
The Interregnum in Foreign Policy
What is important to note is that foreign policy and national security, issues of importance to developing countries like Latin America and the Caribbean, have been residuals in the campaign. This is no doubt due to the fact that Jihadist terrorism, for example, has not been a dominant concern for the first time since 2000. The President benefited from voters’ fear of terrorists in 2016. This year, threats - chief among which are the coronavirus pandemic, the racial justice movement and “Donald Trump's leadership -- are closer home. This is also due to the fact that under President Donald Trump, the infrastructure of diplomacy is crumbling. According to Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro in an interview with the Foreign Policy Magazine (October 28, 2020) the barrage of attacks from the president on appointees has torpedoed morale and thinned the ranks of seasoned foreign policy professionals. Applications to join the U.S. Foreign Service have plummeted since Trump took office, starving the State Department of new talent". The call is to 'bring American diplomacy back from the brink' which is fundamental to a post elections reconstruction of America's global image.
Character and a Just Future are on the Ballot
The final statements of the second Presidential debate on October 23, 2020 were perhaps a microcosm of each candidate's overall campaign. The responses encapsulated perhaps the most crucial difference between the two presidential candidates The host, Kristen Welker asked each what they would say to Americans who didn't vote for them in their inaugural address.
Trump: "I am cutting taxes, and he wants to raise everybody’s taxes, and he wants to put new regulations on everything.. He will kill it. If he gets in, you will have a depression the likes of which you have never seen. Your 401(k)s will go to hell and it will be a very, very sad day for this country.”
Biden: “Character is on the ballot ... As America’s President, I will represent all of you, whether you voted for me or against me. And I’m going to make sure that you’re represented. I’m going to give you hope… Decency, honor, respect, treating people with dignity, making sure that everyone has an even chance. And I’m going to make sure you get that.”
It is however an article in the The Lancet (October 19), that best summarizes why and how we vote: "In the 2020 US election, we can choose a just future"
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.