There’s Still An Election Happening In The US: Here’s The Latest
There’s still an election happening in America right now. I know! Can you believe it? It’s between a guy encouraging people to drink bleach, and a former vice president with a tendency to mumble and a sexual misconduct allegation (more on that later).
Despite the pandemic currently sweeping the globe, American voters will, hopefully, still cast their votes in November for the 56th president of their country. And (assuming you’d prefer the country was run by Joe Biden and not Donald Let’s-Try-Disinfectant Trump) there’s good news and bad news about the current state of affairs.
I’ll start with the good stuff: The Democratic Party has never been more unified; both in messaging and in support for their candidate. Following Bernie Sanders decision to suspend his campaign, the senator joined Joe Biden in a livestream on April 13th to officially offer his endorsement: “Today, I am asking all Americans, I’m asking every Democrat, I’m asking every independent, I’m asking a lot of Republicans, to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy.” 24 hours later, Barack Obama also endorsed his former vice-president with a 12-minute video, which marked Obama’s official entry into the 2020 campaign. Before then, he had remained largely above the fray, offering counsel to candidates behind the scenes, but choosing to stay mostly quiet publicly (probably because he knew it would be a shit-fight and he wanted to let the candidates sort it out amongst themselves).
So everyone’s united! Thank God. And ever since Biden received the public endorsement from Sanders (as well as fellow progressive Elisabeth Warren), his popularity has been growing among young voters. This is crucial for two reasons: firstly, Democrat’s cannot win in November without record turnout among young voters. Gen Z and Millennials (that’s people aged 18-38) will make up nearly 40 percent of eligible voters. And given that young Americans are clear in their disdain for President Trump (in regular polls, nearly 70% say they disapprove his performance), this could bode well. However, there’s still the possibility that young voters will feel uninspired by a potential Biden presidency and decide to stay home or vote for a third party. Which brings me to my second point: during the primary, Bernie Sanders was the preferred candidate among young voters due to his progressive agenda. So while it’s a good thing that Sanders has publicly endorsed Biden, Biden will still need to prove to voters that he is committed to a progressive political agenda. He has started making this case by rolling out two new policy proposals that are closer in alignment to Sanders: The first proposal is to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60. And the second is to offer a plan to forgive all student debt for low and middle-income students who attended historically black colleges and universities, and underfunded minority-serving institutions. There have also been recent polls that show Biden leading Trump among older people (who vote very reliably, and tend to vote republican). But that doesn’t mean it’s locked in. Hilary Clinton led Trump in almost every single poll throughout the 2016 campaign and then lost on election night.
In terms of the bad news, where do you want to start? Well, on the most basic level: incumbents typically win re-election. Out of the ten previous American presidents who have sought re-election, eight of them won a second term. So the chances of Trump not winning a second term, based on the statistic I just mentioned, aren’t great. Then there’s the fact that the coronavirus outbreak has completely upended the 2020 campaign and forced Biden to try and build momentum for his campaign without leaving the house. A 78-year-old white guy trying to raise money on a Zoom call during a recession is not the tea we need guys.
And lastly, there’s the Tara Reade story. Reade, a former Senate aide to Joe Biden, recently filed a report with the Washington, D.C. police, saying she was the victim of a sexual assault in 1993. While she didn’t name Biden in the report, she has since since said publicly that the complaint was about him. A Biden spokeswoman has said the allegation is false and people who worked in Mr. Biden’s office at the time do not recall any mention of such an incident. This has all come to light following news last year that seven women came forward accusing Biden of kissing, hugging or touching them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. If you want to know more about the reporting of this accusation, this episode of The Daily is worth a listen.
As a bystander, it’s hard to know what we should make of the accusation. There is evidence that both supports Reade’s claim, and casts doubt. There’s also the uncomfortable truth that Democrats were relentless in their attacks against Brett Kavanaugh following Christine Blaisey Ford’s allegations, and are now being accused of not being consistent in their #MeToo positioning by not applying the same intensity to Reade’s allegations. It’s uncomfortable and awkward and painful. If Brett Kavanaugh was a “sexual predator”, doesn’t that mean Biden is one too? And if he is, where does that leave his campaign?
I don’t have the answer yet, but I promise I’ll keep you posted.