On Tuesday, millions of Americans will go to the ballots to vote for the president that will occupy the White House for the next four years. As asserted several times in this column, it will be an election like no other, taking place during the deadliest pandemic for the U.S. after the Spanish Flu of 1918.
It is also occurring amid the biggest crisis in the U.S. economy since the Great Depression of 1929 and is engulfed in the biggest race riots and protests against racial discrimination since the 1968 movement.
American society has not been this polarized in the recent past. All of the major fault lines, including race and religion, were triggered as a result of the incidents over the last several years. In addition to American society, the international community has also watched the elections closely and is trying to make sense of what is going on in the U.S.
It was a frustratingly long election process. The debates and rumors of the Democratic candidates started almost 18 months ago. They participated in numerous debates and programs for months to win the primaries. In the midst of the primaries, we have seen the rise of the COVID-19 numbers in the U.S.
After such a long campaign process to win the democratic nomination, it took only a few weeks for former Vice President Joe Biden to assume the candidacy of the Democratic Party. However, it was not the end. The real race between Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump started in the first weeks of the summer.
Due to COVID-19, we have experienced a never-before-seen campaign process between two candidates. Biden in particular pursued a socially distanced campaign. No rallies were organized by the Democratic nominee. Most of his campaign took place on online platforms. Trump’s criticism did not change this attitude.
In addition to campaigning for the presidential election, voting in the election also became an area of contestation during the pandemic. There is no doubt that we will see a record voter turnout in the elections. Absentee and mail-in ballots provided an opportunity for many to participate in this critical election.
However soon this issue also generated major rifts between Trump and Biden. Considering the higher interest among the Democrats for the mail-in ballots, Trump started to attack the idea of mail-in ballots as early as July. He stated several times that they would lead to a rigged election and asked his supporters to go and vote on Election Day.
During this period, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy caused further controversy by introducing new policies that could have potentially slowed the delivery of the mail-in ballots. More significantly, Trump’s emphasis on the potential roles that the courts can play in determining the outcome of the election elevated the skepticism about the interference to the election. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) announcement that Russia and Iran are trying to influence the election outcomes in the U.S. increased suspicions about the election.
Maybe more shocking for many around the world was the tone of the two candidates against one another and their discourse during their campaign. Although Trump’s statements made more headlines, it was in fact Biden that called a sitting president a “clown” and a “liar.”
As part of his gaffes, Biden made statements attacking the democratically elected president of Turkey. In the meantime, Trump made irresponsible comments about the COVID-19 pandemic and continued to insult the members of the Democratic leadership. It was a shock-and-awe moment for the world to see the standards sink so low for the candidates.
We still don’t know what is going to happen on Nov. 3. However, following the election, it’s clear the U.S. will need damage control and reparation. The U.S.’ standing is at an all-time low around the world.
There is no trust in the U.S. president and the administration. It has been considered unreliable, unpredictable and indecisive. On top of this, the election process generated doubts about Washington and its position. The elected candidate will have to face a world that has too many question marks about the future of the U.S.
[Daily Sabah, 2 November 2020]