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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden faces off against incumbent President Donald Trump on November 3 in a pivotal election with implications for the entire world.
For the United States people, the 2020 U.S. presidential elections are being held in one of the most dangerous and tense circumstances in recent memory. Taking place amidst a deadly pandemic that has cost the lives of over 230,000 people in the United States alone, and just after the largest national protest movement for racial justice and against police brutality in U.S. history, the U.S. elections are bound to be filled with surprises and outcomes not easy to predict.
Adding onto this a convoluted and intentionally confusing electoral and voting system, it's fair to assume many remain unsure of what is to come, despite the polls' predictions. Telesur English takes stock of the U.S elections to date, providing clarity and synthesis to make sense of what to expect on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3rd.
So how does this all work, and what will happen on November 3rd? While an unprecedented number of nearly 100 million voters have already cast their ballot, almost 240 million people over the United States are eligible to vote. Across 50 states and deep ideological and cultural divides, most of these voters will cast their votes for either Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden or U.S. incumbent, President Donald Trump, in office since January 2017. While other smaller third-party candidates have made their way onto the ballots in dozens of states, most will fail to receive more than a few percentage points, however laudable their platforms.
The electoral process, however, began more than a year ago, as the Democratic primary races paired down the field of contestants from dozens of well-intentioned candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to the corporate-backed favorite of the Democratic Party, former vice president under Barack Obama and ex-senator from Delaware, the moderate Joe Biden.
After all the votes are cast (including early and mail-in ballots, absentee and voters abroad), the candidate receiving the most votes in each of the 50 states will be represented by the totality of the electoral college members from that state, who must throw their vote behind the state's victor. States have a different number of electoral college votes depending on population, ranging from 3 (Wyoming) to 55 (California). To win the election, a candidate must receive at least 270 electoral college votes. Often, the nationwide popular vote winner does receive the adequate number of electoral college votes and thus loses the election.
Scandal after Scandal
While this may seem easy enough to follow, several ongoing and high-profile polemics have marred this electoral season and its two major candidates, fomenting distrust and suspicion of both candidates and their parties.
A major back-drop of the 2020 presidential elections is the massive global uprising for Black lives catalyzed by the brutal police murder of Minneapolis' George Floyd but build on the legacy of decades of mass protests organizing for racial justice and police accountability. While both candidates pander to the African-American community as they need its vote to win, both candidates also pledge to fully fund the police and federal law enforcement, in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement's principal demands. The "law and order" approach both candidates have assumed, stoking the racial divide between major cities and rural areas, have further polarized a country with a tragic history rooted in slavery, racist exploitation, and staggering inequality.
Another contentious issue this election cycle has been the recent confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, rushed through by President Trump and the Senate following the death of long-time progressive Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. By stacking the nation's highest court with a now-conservative majority, many landmark women, workers, indigenous and LGBTQ rights decisions are under serious risk. Fast-tracking the consistently pro-life and pro-business Coney Barret onto the court, after the contentious selection of Justice Brett Cavanaugh two years, Trump hopes to win over much-needed suburban female voters assure judicial support for his otherwise controversial policies.
While most voters list the economy, healthcare, and racism among their primary concerns, foreign policy, especially towards Latin America, is another area where the two candidates have found consensus across the aisle. From Israel to Venezuela, China to Central America, both Biden and Trump enjoy nearly identical policy positions, assuring geopolitical allies, extractivist private investment and generous military aid, and, for "enemy" nations, economic sanctions, accusations of electoral interference and imperialist confrontation. Especially regarding Russia and Iran, the two corporate candidates have consistently sought to "one-up" each other how "tough" they can be on the two nations, scapegoating and blaming them for the domestic issues generated by the corporate democracy both candidates practice embody.
Democracy...But Not For Everyone
Althoughthe candidates lionize U.S. democracy as a beacon of light and example for the rest of the world, this election season has shown that democracy is not quite equal for everybody. Aside from the millions of ex-convicts, mostly Black and Latinx victims of the War on Drugs, who have become disenfranchised post-incarceration, other evolved forms of voter suppression have marked the 2020 elections. To prevent an assured Democratic victory, Republicans have sought to dismember the vote-by-mail system, a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, by waging legal battles against extension dates that have risen to the Supreme Court. Accounts of voter intimidation at polling places, the removal and defunding of U.S. Postal Service infrastructure, and severely reduced polling locations in urban centers, leading to hours-long lines, have all sought to prevent poor and working Democrats from exercising their "right to vote." In Florida, which granted former felons the right to vote, onerous public debt repayment requirements have essentially stripped this hard-won victory of any operability. And it's no coincidence that Florida, the largest battleground state Trump needs to secure re-election, is perhaps where real democracy mostly goes to die, as reflected in current policy towards Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. The bipartisan attacks on these fundamentally democratic and participatory nations are direct results of both candidates' pandering to the corporate exile elite based in Trump's favorite state, who could care less about democracy and human rights, neither in Florida nor their countries of origin.
It's the System, Stupid
Ultimately, structural issues with the U.S. electoral system and its anti-democratic nature leave many worried that the more voted for of the two candidates will not end up in the White House in January 2021. This is precisely what happened in 2016 with Hilary Clinton, who won the popular vote but did not become president, and many analysts believe the same problem could plague this year's elections, as well. Furthermore, because of Supreme Court decisions enshrining corporate personhood, the United States' presidential elections prove to be more competition between large corporate donors and Super PACs than the sovereign decision of everyday U.S. voters. While this year has seen unprecedented grassroots mobilization of marginalized or historically low turnout voters, with the potential to sway the election outcomes, the billionaire interests backing the two candidates—who agree on more than they disagree—are ultimately the ones who will come out victorious on November 3rd, regardless of who wins.