By TESSA WEBB
2020 was a big year with two very different elections: New Zealand’s, and America’s. Tessa Webb reports on the madness that was the battle for the White House.
96 hours after polls closed, Joe Biden declared victory over Donald Trump, winning both the popular vote and the electoral college. In doing so, his running mate Kamala Harris became the first female Vice President-elect in US history. The Democrats held on to their majority in the House of Representatives but lost some seats to the Republicans. Furthermore, Republicans continued their control of the Senate, which could prevent Biden from applying his progressive policy agenda. However, two senate positions will be decided in run-off elections in January, granting an opportunity for Democrats to claim full control of the legislative and executive branches.
Democrats, fearful of a repeat of 2016, were hesitant to celebrate until Joe Biden surpassed the 270 electoral college votes to become president-elect. When he finally did, city streets were flooded with cheering supporters. Reflecting the deeply polarised climate in America, protests also erupted as votes rolled in, increasingly in Biden’s favor (this was to be expected due to the higher rate of mail-in voting by Democrats). Donald Trump encouraged his supporters to rally outside vote counting sites, making the unsubstantiated claim that ballots were discarded or miscounted. Trump has mounted legal challenges against many states, calling the election “a fraud on the American public”. So far all of his cases have been dismissed.
THE INTERNATIONAL REACTION:
A Biden win has a huge effect on the USA’s participation in the international community. Since 2016, it has retreated from a range of intergovernmental organizations due to Trump’s “America first” policies. This included leaving the World Health Organization in July, along with UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Council. Biden intends to re-engage in these associations and has been explicit in his intention to commit to the Paris Climate Accord.
Russia, which was accused of interfering in the 2016 election, has yet to officially comment on the results. Meanwhile, far-right European leaders of Slovenia, Belarus, and Estonia are echoing Trump’s rhetoric surrounding the results, accusing Democrats of rigging the election. Jacinda Ardern shared a picture of Biden on a visit to Aotearoa, captioning it “With so many issues facing the international community, New Zealand looks forward to working with you both”.
THE BIG ISSUES:
Although the election was portrayed as a referendum on Donald Trump, there were several policy issues on voters’ minds. Despite a death toll nearing a quarter of a million, Pew Research Center indicated the economy, healthcare, and Supreme Court appointments concerned citizens more than the Coronavirus. 38% of Trump supporters considered stopping the pandemic “very important”, compared to 84% of Biden supporters. Ahmaud Abery prompted a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, bringing racial justice issues to the forefront.
Statewide referendums were also on the ballot. In contrast to New Zealand, a wave of marijuana legalization or decriminalization occurred in six states. Voting laws were a hot issue throughout this election, especially as the Coronavirus pandemic caused a record number of mail-in ballots. Several bills were passed relating to redistricting, electoral finance, and rank choice voting. Finally, Mississippi approved the removal of the confederate cross from its state flag, the last state in the US to do so.
THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY:
While the sitting president faced merely three challengers from his republican party for the role of the nominee, Biden fended off 27 other candidates (including a record-breaking six women) to gain the nomination for the democratic party. One of these was his eventual running mate Kamala Harris, who made a strong impression on America and the world with her debate performances.
CORONA HITS THE WHITEHOUSE:
In the final month before the election, the president, several of his family members, and dozens of staff contracted the Coronavirus. This caused one of the three scheduled presidential debates to be canceled, as President Trump refused to participate in a virtual event. He later called his infection “a blessing from God”.
It wouldn’t be a wrap up of the 2020 presidential election without a dishonorable mention to Yeezy himself. Kanye West, who campaigned for “The Birthday Party” (Yes, seriously.) managed to officially qualify to be on the ballot in only 12 of 50 states, rendering his efforts impossible from the start. Based on the latest numbers, he garnered around 60,000 votes.
THE NEXT STEP:
Biden’s journey to the Whitehouse is far from over as he faces unprecedented resistance from the sitting president. A week after the election results were called, he has begun releasing appointments and plans. However, the traditional transition of power, which involves the President-elect’s staff having access to information from the previous administration, is yet to begin due to Trump’s refusal to concede. A week after the results have been called, the state of the US 2020 election can best be summed up by a single tweet:
TESSA WEBB is a small-town girl from friendly Feilding who ran her way to North Carolina. Currently living her American dream studying Political Science, eating frozen custard, and staying on that student-athlete grind.
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