Postal votes and Pandemics: The Who, What and Why of the US Election

Tuesday 3rd November is a big day. Not only is it the rumoured start date of Professional Masterchef (which Marcus, Monica, Greg and co are keeping infuriatingly tight lipped about). It is also the 59th Presidential Election.

In one corner we have Mr. Joe Biden. Former VP and right hand man to Obama. Some call him sleepy Joe. Others remember him fondly from the Joe and Obama memes. Many view him as the golden ticket out of Trump’s America. 

Biden was the dark horse of the democratic nominee race. Bernie Sanders, America’s answer to Jeremy Corbyn was a frontrunner for most of the contest. But Biden came out top – seen by most as a moderate, and a much better candidate to take on Trump in a relatively conservative country.  

Here’s a few facts to get to know the guy a bit better. 

4 interesting facts about Biden:

  1. Poor Joe has experienced a lot of heartbreak in his seventy-four years. In 1972, his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident, and in 2016, his son Beau died from brain cancer. 
  2. He was raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania – the setting of the US Office. 
  3. Trump’s accused him of being a bit of a dimwit (pot calling the kettle black). But Joe has had an impressive career – lawyer, and the 5th youngest senator the US has ever seen. 
  4. He’s a trier. This is Biden’s third shot at the Presidency, after unsuccessful attempts in 1988 and 2008. Third time’s a charm? 

Aaaand in the red corner we have Mr Donald Trump. Unfortunately, the great orange man doesn’t need too much of an intro. We know about the tax evasion, the tweets, the sexism. But here are a few lesser known facts about him anyway.  

4 interesting(ish) facts about Trump:

  1. Trump is teetotal. He hasn’t touched alcohol since the death of his brother, Fred Trump at the age of 42 from alcohol related causes. 
  2. Believe it or not, he was a registered Democrat between 2001-2009. 
  3. He’s related to Heinz. Friedrich Trump (Donald’s dad) was the second cousin of Henry J. Heinz, the founder of the famed baked bean brand. 
  4. Trump considered buying Greenland last year. The announcement was met with worldwide hilarity – everywhere that is except Greenland itself, who released a statement confirming that they were ‘not for sale’, under any circumstances. 

What will happen?

No one knows for sure what will happen. The polls are putting Joe in front by 10 points (which is a lot). But, the polls also put Hilary in front 4 years ago, and the polls said Brexit wouldn’t happen. Can we trust the polls? Not totally. But this time, there are a few differences. Postal votes. Young voters. 225k US deaths from Covid. 3 significant factors which favour a Democratic victory. 

Here’s the breakdown: 

1. The swing states are favouring Biden. 

New York and California are safe Democratic seats. Tennessee and West Virginia always vote Republican. But every year, a handful of ‘swing’ states, who could go either way, decide who will win the presidency. Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are examples of these battleground states. And this year, it is not certain which way Texas will swing. What’s more, many battleground  states hold a lot more importance due to their size. The bigger the state, the more votes up for grabs. Texas for example has 38 votes, in comparison to New Hampshire which only has 4. 

How’re Trump and Biden looking so far in the swing states? Well, Biden is looking pretty good. Polls are giving him a big lead in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which Trump won in 2016.Trump also won big in Iowa, Texas and Ohio in 2016, with a 8-10% margin. This time round Biden is up in Iowa. And while Trump is ahead in Texas and Ohio, it is by a much smaller margin. Again, the polls have been wrong before. But early predictions are putting Biden in a much more favourable position than Hilary 4 years ago. 

2. Postal votes are in

It’s a common consensus that the increase in postal votes will favour the Democrats. This hasn’t always been the case in past elections, but this year, Democrats have filed significantly more ballot requests than Republicans. Trump is a big believer in the theory that postal votes will harm his campaign. This is why he attempted to sabotage the entire postal system, by cutting mail funds and frequently discrediting postal votes as fraudulent. He even suggested delaying the election til next year, until everyone could vote in person. 

Unsurprisingly due to Covid, this year people are voting early via mail more than ever before. This rings particularly true in Texas, where 6.3 million people have already voted. To put that into context, this is more than 2 million who voted for Trump in Texas in 2016, and 2 million less than the total number of votes cast in Texas in 2016. In California 5.8 million have cast postal votes, and in Florida the number is at 4.7 million. In fact, it is predicted that around 50% of all votes this year will come in mail form.* Huuuuge. 

3. Young voters (18-29) are bad for Republicans. 

The high level of early voters are showing very encouraging statistics for young voters. And young voters are flexing their muscles and exercising their electoral power in unprecedented levels. Here are some numbers (thanks BBC).

  • Michigan: In 2016 there were 7532 young voters.  In 2020, there have already been 145,201. 
  • Florida: In 2016 there were 44,107 young voters.  In 2020 there have already been 257, 720.
  • North Carolina: In 2016 there were 25,150 young  voters. In 2020 there have already been 204,296. *

Young voters are always more liberal. The huge leap in this group with still a week to go is another reason to be cautiously optimistic in the polls. 

4. The transition of power won’t be an easy one. 

Trump is only a fan of democracy if it goes his own way. If Biden is elected President next week, it is very unlikely that Trump will go quietly. He won’t congratulate Joe as Obama and Hilary did to him 4 years ago. He won’t get his affairs in order, shake hands with the Biden clan and welcome them into the White House. He won’t leave graciously in January. 

When asked at a recent presidential debate if he would accept the result if he lost, Trump answered: “I have to see. Look, you—I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no.” Encouraging. 

Instead, if Biden wins, Trump will contest that the election was rigged, and he is in fact the true victor. Blame it on mail fraud. He might campaign for a re election. Refuse to leave the White House. Incite riots across the country. Anything is possible with The Donald. 

What is clear, is that normal rules are up in the air when Trump is involved. American democracy could very well be facing its biggest obstacle of all time, in the form of an obese orange man. 2020 might have saved its biggest surprise til last. 

Why is this so important?

Elections are always important. The US is one of the most powerful countries in the world, and its leader determines global economies, the environment, war and peace. But this particular election is being cited as one of the most important in modern history. Here’s why. 

1. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. 

More is at stake in this election than any previous since WWII – how to deal with a global health crisis. So far, Trump’s handling of Coronavirus has been disastrous. His refusal to treat it as a serious issue has resulted in the deaths of over 226,000 Americans. The economy suffered its biggest blow since the Great Depression. And cases are still increasing day on day. 

If Trump is re-elected, it validates his Covid policy so far. Many more Americans will suffer, and the economy will continue to free fall. Biden on the other hand has advocated a Covid policy much more in line with the WHO’s recommendations – masks, widespread testing, social distancing. How America emerges from the pandemic depends on the election. 

2. America is more divided than ever before

Even before Covid knocked the world for ten, the divisions within America since Trump took the reins of power have been straining at the seams. The race riots in summer, sparked by the murder of George Floyd is just one example of a country which is fractured geographically, ideologically, and economically. 

The US is huge – each state could very well be its own country, with its individual history, cuisine and culture. Governing the US as one, and pulling these states together is no easy task. 

Trump is not totally to blame here; these divisions, from systemic racism to economic oppression have been in place for centuries. But his fiery rhetoric and failure to tackle these divisions make him totally unfit to continue as President. Whoever wins will face the wrath of the losing side, so great are the differences between Republicans and Democrats today. But the extremity of Trump’s character in contrast to Biden, means that if Trump were to win, we can expect these divisions within the country to only deepen, violence to increase, and intolerance to soar. 

To sum up…

Each election is unique in its own way. But this one is totally different to any other. The stakes are higher. The divisions deeper. The consequences graver. And the outcome could be the biggest surprise yet – if Trump loses, will he go quietly? Or will he refuse to step down, as many suspect? There’s a lot of factors working in Biden’s favour right now, from postal votes to a surge in young voters. 

It’s unlikely we’ll know the result next Tuesday night (or early morning), as postal votes will still be coming in. But it promises to be a corker. I’ll be tuning in with bated breath (after Professional Masterchef, of course). 

* BBC – How Will Early Voting Impact The Election?


One Comment Add yours

  1. Hannah says:

    So stressful! Got my fingers and toes crossed. The climate can’t wait another 4 years either!

    Liked by 1 person

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