Politics

The US Election: Looking in from the Outside

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I’m writing this article on Election Day, November 3rd. By the time you read this, the United States may be well in the middle of the ballot-counting process. Perhaps, a winner may have been announced. But, in all likelihood, the mood of elation (or devastation) that often accompanies election day as it dwindles into election night could be pushed out for days or even weeks. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are well-poised to surmount legal challenges over the validity of mail-in ballots, fights that are already being duked out in battleground states. From controversies over the fight to reject 127,000 ballots received at a drive-in facility in Texas to the confusion around naked ballots in Pennsylvania, the campaign on both sides may very well reach its fervour in courtrooms across the United States.

Many of the nation’s leading pollsters are calling it for Biden. All the while, for those of us who remember how Trump barrelled across Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan and the key electoral college states, these claims provide us with no consolation. The revival of ‘The New York Times’ election “needle” makes me squirm just as uneasily as I do when my Doctor furnishes one for my B12 shots. An early-morning reading of FiveThirtyEight’s Presidential Forecast, which characterizes this election as a “fine line between a landslide and a nail-biter,” has not done much for my election day dizzies. The comedian, John Mulaney, remarked earlier this week that not much will change even if Joe Biden wins. Cynical? Very. Impossible? No.

No matter which candidate clinches the nomination, there is much, much work to do. A pandemic is raging across the country, aided and abetted by troublesome rhetoric emanating from the Trump administration which is trying to make the dangerous claim that the worst of Covid-19 is over, though cases and hospitalizations continue to rise each day. There is the matter that the Senate has yet to come to a decision on how to help Americans trudge through a ravaged economy, wherein those in low-wage jobs who often comprise vulnerable marginalized communities, are piling into their cars to grab that week’s groceries from the food bank. If they still have their jobs, they are often in the high-risk, public-facing job sectors with minimal or no health benefits. Hanging above their head is the worry of dying or getting sick and having to front the bill for that life-saving care. If they are unemployed, accessing redundancy pay means calls to underfunded and overwrought social service offices. People are suffering and it is going to take more than this election to fix it.

Above all, there is something awry with American public administration. There is something broken in American democracy. The most important mechanism we have as members of a political community is that of the right to vote, to choose our leaders to represent our interests and our needs. However, in the United States, electoral areas are drawn by winning parties to cache voters based on class, race and other binaries that help them retain power. Voter registration rolls are continuously purged. In majority-minority communities, polling stations face lengthy lines causing voters to queue up for hours to cast their ballot. The country is roiled with hyper-partisanship, racial tensions are high, the chasm between rich and poor is widening, and a new President will not fix that. Nor will another four years of the current one.

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