United States votes

November 8, 2020

Millions turn out to vote despite pandemic fears

Amid another surge of the deadly pandemic and a politically charged environment, about half of the 240 million voters in the United States had already voted, taking advantage of the early voting period before the polling began on Tuesday morning nationwide. Another large group used mail-in ballots to avoid the election-day rush.

As the results started pouring in, confusion and uncertainty prevailed throughout the election night. Although early results showed Donald Trump doing better, contradicting the exit polls and predictions, Joe Biden, was not far behind in polls.

Adding to the perplexity, President Trump baselessly declared his victory early on, demanding that electoral results should have been finalised the same evening. He even threatened to challenge results in the Supreme Court.

He insisted on announcing the voting results the same night, knowing that most Democratic voters came out in the early voting period, and most Republicans voted on election day. Traditionally, results of the election-day votes are announced the same day and rest of the votes are counted the following day or even later.

On the other hand, Joe Biden, advising his followers to be patient, announced that he is heading towards a victory, and they should wait for the final count.

By Wednesday morning Biden had started gaining ground, and he seemed to be in a stable position in the afternoon. As soon as he appeared to be a winner, Republicans were threatening to challenge the results legally.

After a turbulent season of uncertainty, it looks like America is getting ready for a long period of legal wars.

President Trump refused to accept the deadly pandemic as a massive health crisis in the country in his election speeches. With over nine million cases, over 200,000 deaths, and the media predicting a nationwide pandemic surge, he claimed that physicians were inflating the coronavirus count for monetary gains.

Trump also held election rallies with no social distancing and masks while mocking Joe Biden for strictly following the health guidelines in public gatherings and political meetings.

Biden tactfully exploited this weakness calling Trump an incompetent leader who had no plan to overcome this national crisis.

While the economy was on the right track early this year before the pandemic, no one could have predicted Trump’s abysmal ratings within nine months. It was a mix of bad luck and his lack of vision in handling this deadly crisis that contributed to increasing unemployment and a lackluster economy. Both trends were a major factor in the president’s declining popularity.

Joe Biden announced the main features of his plan to deal with the pandemic and related economic downturn. He said he planned to work with health experts in implementing a preventive strategy, including a testing plan, implementation of distancing, and wearing masks, among other methods. He also announced free access to the vaccine to all citizens when it becomes available.

Administrative chaos became the Trump administration’s hallmark because of the weak leadership, dwindling moral authority, and shrinking political mandate that was developing since 2016.

The Democratic victories in the 2018 mid-term election were the early signs of the declining political mandate of the Republican Party.

Trump was the third US president impeached on financial grounds. Not successful, the process, however, eroded the political stature of the president at home and abroad.

Trump had refused to accept the deadly pandemic as a massive health crisis in the country in his election speeches. With over nine million cases, over 200,000 deaths, and the media predicting a nationwide pandemic surge, he claimed that physicians were inflating the coronavirus count for monetary gains.

From the beginning, the Trump administration lacked competence in resolving administrative, financial, and political issues. Trump was probably the only president in the US who criticised and fired key leaders of his administration and humiliated government institutions. This not only contributed to the administrative chaos, but also unnecessarily created tension between the White House and the federal administration.

Slowly but surely, the Trump administration was also losing the moral authority to rule the country. Misrepresentation of facts became a daily routine in official statements and the president’s tweets. Trump’s likes and dislikes, opposition to Obama’s policies, and protecting his close circle of friends became the hallmark of his administrative style. Trump not only failed to manage social unrest across America, but also tried to intensify social tensions. Domestically, Trump has been a divisive force from day one. He divided the country on ethnic, racial, cultural, religious, and political grounds to the extent that some started calling him the “divider-in-chief.”

When the police were killing the Afro-American youth on the streets in several cities, Trump emphasised strict measures to crush the protest rallies calling them looters and anarchists. He even refused to dissociate himself from the white supremacy groups in the country.

Joe Biden said he planned to introduce reforms in the system of social justice, policing, and accessible education. Trump’s immigration policies have been cruel and inhumane. As soon as he moved into the White House, he announced a moratorium on Muslim immigrants from some countries.

As he started building the “beautiful wall”, as he called it, on the US-Mexico border, Trump also began implementing stringent immigration regulations. During his election campaign, Joe Biden declared that the border authorities separated 500 children from Hispanic families trying to cross the border. The authorities still do not know what to do with these children as their parents are still not identified.

Trump’s administration also failed to develop a consistent and effective foreign policy. In fact, during his four years of presidency, he did his best to isolate America from the rest of the world, implementing his “America First” doctrine.

From Europe to Asia to the Middle East, he intensified global tensions and created large gulfs of mistrust between the United States and other countries.

In his 2016 election campaign, Trump promised to make America great again globally by bringing the troops back and removing the trade imbalance with several nations.

He declared to withdraw American armed forces from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan as these military deployments came with a considerable cost of $6.4 trillion since 2001.

Yet, American troops are still deployed in Syria and Iraq; they are increasingly involved in the Middle East’s political impasse.

Although the US troops are being pulled out from Afghanistan, the process seems to be in limbo already.

The Trump administration also contributed to the ongoing tension between the Arab nations and Iran. These countries have become one of the largest buyers of US arms and fighter planes.

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have recently established diplomatic relations with Israel as part of the agreements mediated by the US. The arrangements, somehow, did not elevate Trump’s domestic stature in resolving global issues.

The Obama-Biden administration did not support Israel’s policies to continue encroachments in the Palestinian territories, and we can see a similar strategy under Joe Biden’s administration.

Pulling out from several international agreements during the last four years has intensified tensions and created mistrust among the countries.

Trump’s decision to pull out from the nuclear agreement with Iran is only one example. It accelerated Iran’s capabilities to develop nuclear weapons and isolated the European countries that were part of the deal and refused to endorse its demise. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord on climatic change and refusal to financially support the NATO also widened the gulf of mistrust between the US and its European allies. It looks, the new administration has a monumental task of establishing trust and developing collaborative relations with its global partners. (An updated version of the story is available at: https://www.thenews.com.pk/tns)

The author is an academic scholar, a freelance journalist, and a grant development consultant based in the US

US election 2020: Millions turn out to vote despite coronavirus pandemic fears