Reflections on the US Election

New president faces many challenges

By Stuart Bell, a first year BA History & Politics student

This article is part of our series ‘Reflections on the US Election’

Donald Trump proved the polls and the media wrong yet again, with the predicted ‘blue wave’ not materialising. He still received the second highest number of votes in US election history, with over 70 million votes and winning in key states such as Florida and Ohio. Similar patterns were seen in the Congressional elections. Despite not winning the House, Republicans made significant gains – winning at least 12 seats previously held by the Democrats – and the party has a strong chance of holding control of the Senate.

With Joe Biden elected as the 46th President of the United States, I feel that this result is damaging to the ‘special relationship’ that exists between the US and UK and that the next 4 years could be unpredictable and challenging. This is due to Biden not being a supporter of Brexit (compared to President Trump) which could lead to problems in the hope of a favourable trade deal being struck between the US and UK, especially if the UK leaves the transition period without a deal. 

This could mean the UK is pushed to the ‘back of the queue’ as former President Barack Obama stated before the UK voted to leave in 2016. Also, Biden may focus more on building better relations with the remaining 27 EU countries which had a challenging relationship with President Trump during his time in office.

As for the US itself, in the short term it will be a challenge for Biden to try and bring the nation together, as the country is more divided than it has been for a generation due to the election and the Coronavirus pandemic. The issue of race has also caused there to be an increase in tensions, especially after the death of George Floyd. Violence erupted in many cities, with further tensions prompted by the tearing down of statutes. This must be a priority for Biden and Harris as America cannot move forward if it is not united.

Turning to the immediate challenge of handling the pandemic, the outcome of the election leaves as many questions as it does answers. How Coronavirus continues to affect the US will play a very important role in how the economy rebounds and whether the potential vaccines prove to be effective or not in the long-term.

Thinking about broader foreign policy, the next four years will contrast with the last four. Biden has signalled taking a different approach to Trump’s ‘America First’ policy. Trump’s approach had challenged organisations such as NATO where certain member countries weren’t committed to spending 2% of their GDP on defence, and he pulled America out of the Paris Climate Accord, saying that it would damage the US economy and cost American jobs. Trump also took on China, which had been trading unfairly for years, and he helped forge peace in the Middle East between Israel and the UAE, along with being the first president since Carter to not bring the US in a new conflict. 

Biden’s foreign policy will aim to try and repair relations with allies. He will move America back into the forefront of the political world by re-joining the Paris Climate accord, the World Health Organisation, and will play a major role in NATO. The US will most likely play a major role in these over the next four years, helping to determine what direction they take. 

What type of trade deal the UK will eventually strike with the US is unpredictable due to the question of the border between Northern Ireland and the EU and Biden’s comments on the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement. 

Finally, it should be noted that the current election season in the US is not yet over. How a Biden-Harris administration will be able to govern will be strongly shaped by the outcome of two Senate run-off races in the state of Georgia in January. And as one election season comes to an end, the next one won’t be far off. The mid-terms in less than two years’ time will also determine how much key legislation the Biden-Harris administration is able to pass.

Reflections on the US Election

Looking forward to the next four years

By Courtney Campbell, a second year BA Politics student

This article is part of our series ‘Reflections on the US Election’

It is hard to believe that we have lived through almost four whole years of Donald Trump’s presidency. Between building walls, the Russia investigation and becoming the third president to be impeached, this madness that began back in 2016 with Trump’s unexpected win against Hillary Clinton does not appear to have subsided just yet, even weeks after the presidential election itself. With Trump’s Twitter storms and claims of alleged electoral fraud, this year’s election looks set to be historical on a similar level to Bush v. Gore in 2000. However, I am happy with Biden’s win and feel confident that he will deliver during his upcoming term in office. 

As an enthusiast of politics in the United States, I have been following the elections since the end of 2019, during the Democratic nomination process. Initially, I was a supporter of Elizabeth Warren; I would have especially loved for a female to be on the presidential ticket. With her slogan of “I’ve got a plan for that” and prospective reforms in healthcare and education, I really felt that she had a shot at the nomination.

However, this of course was not to be. Although Joe Biden was not at first my preferred candidate for this election, it cannot be denied that he is very well qualified, being first elected to the Senate at the age of just 29 in 1972. He has an impressive record both in the Senate and beyond as Barack Obama’s Vice President – and after four years of madness, I was pretty much happy whoever the Democratic nominee was going to be. “Vote blue, no matter who” appears to have been the attitude of many Democrats this year, with even some Republicans turning against their party to endorse Biden. 

After staying up late to watch presidential and vice-presidential debates, on the 3rd November I was prepared for what I knew was going to be a long night of watching red states and blue states be declared, whilst eagerly awaiting toss-ups such as Florida and Pennsylvania to be called. After witnessing Trump win in swing states including Michigan and Ohio, previously called for Obama in 2012, I knew that this election could be set to be a close call. 

Of course, I was correct – after watching CNN almost constantly from Tuesday right through until Saturday, patiently waiting for Joe Biden to be declared as the next President of the United States, the result we had been waiting for was through. I am sure that a sigh of relief was heard across much of the US and beyond; in these uncertain times, I believe that Biden will handle the tough situations that the world finds itself in.

With Kamala Harris as the Vice President-elect, I am also delighted that a woman, not least a woman of colour, is finally on the way to breaking the glass ceiling that has been present in American politics for so many years. As a female politics student, this gives me some hope knowing how far we have come since even fifty years ago, with more people coming to recognise the importance of female and minority representation in politics.  

Although the US still faces a level of uncertainty, with Trump’s legal action, various protests and accusations of rigged postal ballots, I am happy that some calm is going to be restored to the White House – with Biden’s experience and respect for American values, I believe that he will make his best efforts to build upon the advancements made by Barack Obama during his two terms. He has a difficult road ahead of him – becoming a President amidst a public health emergency and economic crisis is not easy, but I look forward to what lies ahead for American politics during the next four years. 

History Politics Reflections on the US Election

A ‘nice’ perspective on the US Election

By Madison T. Clark, MA in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice 

This article is part of our series ‘Reflections on the US Election’

I was born and raised in a state where being ‘nice’ is upheld as the golden standard. All too often, however, this ‘nice’ approach boils down to public smiles coupled with behind-the-scenes racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia. Microaggressions rule the day in my home state. Attempts to have important, difficult conversations tend to result in silence from oppressors and/or wild gesticulations at their personal church attendance records and what that surely signifies about their character. All of this was true when I was born, and all of this continues to be true today. 

None of the structural issues in the United States begin or end with Donald Trump’s single term in office. Did he behave in ways that explicitly and implicitly empowered racists, white nationalists, misogynists, Islamophobes, and other such groups? Yes. Did he appoint morally reprehensible and/or wholly unqualified people, resulting in increased violence against millions of already-marginalized communities? Yes. Concurrently, the truth of the matter is that the United States has never worked through any reconciliation process. Agreeing to a shared history is an early step in nearly all conflict resolution and transformation efforts. Across the board, Americans can’t even agree on basic historical facts about the oppression and violence that our entire country is built upon and continues to perpetuate. 

For better or worse, I’m a product of the U.S. public education system. Rather than learn about the Indigenous genocides that led to the presence of our original colonizers, we learned cutesy rhymes revolving around the names of Columbus’ ships. Rather than learn the true devastations of slavery or the ways in which it and white supremacy continue to impact our everyday lives, we learned how terrible the South was, how wonderful the North was, and how the conditions of slavery weren’t particularly ideal. In the American public education system, we learn the ‘nice’ version of our country’s history, rather than the truth of it. 

To this day, such ‘niceness’ is predominantly perpetuated and upheld by white people across the country; these are the same people who elect to apply their colonizer mindsets to all people. This, paired with white fragility, is what created the ‘angry and loud Black woman’ trope, which continues to be used in order to invalidate and ignore what Black women have to say; it is why ‘speak English’ is an incredibly common refrain from U.S. nationalists, even as they simultaneously pride themselves on tired ‘melting pot’ imagery; it is why ‘sexy Indian costumes’ are popular each Halloween, yet the subject of missing and murdered Indigenous women is rarely brought up in public discourse. 

The ‘niceness’ that a childhood in Missouri tried to teach me is the same ‘niceness’ that so much of our country revolves around. So it’s no wonder the pollsters have struggled to produce any sort of accurate numbers in the last two elections. It was not necessarily ‘nice’ to admit to a stranger that you’d be voting for Trump, but it was simultaneously seen as ‘the American thing to do.’ The irony of this dichotomy is not lost on me. 

When the results from Pennsylvania came through, officially pushing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris past that 270 mark (don’t get me started on the racist and classist disaster that is the Electoral College), I let out a sigh that I didn’t know I’d been holding for the past four years. While I absolutely wish Biden and Harris were the progressives that far-right media has painted them to be, I know that is not the case. But I believe in our organizers, in our local politicians, in our everyday community builders, in our conflict mediators, in every person who prides themselves not on being seen as ‘nice’ but on building a more just and equitable future for all people. I believe that we can and must hold Biden, Harris, and their entire administration accountable, demand meaningful systemic change, and shift our nation closer to one that actually provides liberty and justice for all for the first time in its history.