Corona and call for social justice are most important for American voters

TEHRAN(Bazaar) – Professor Kevin Richards, chair of Liberal Arts Department at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, tells the Bazaar that the two issues that most clearly define the stance of American voters are the government’s response to the corona virus pandemic and the call for social justice.

He also says “Foreign policy has not been as key of a factor in the upcoming presidential election.”

Professor Richards adds that “Voters backing Biden will most likely feel the government has poorly handled the response to the corona virus pandemic and that the current president is blind to the need for social justice for historically underrepresented groups.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Bazaar: What is the most important issue affecting the upcoming US presidential election (Economy; Foreign Policy; Domestic Policy; etc.)?

Richards: It may be difficult to select the most important issue impacting the upcoming US presidential election, but I think the two issues that most clearly define the stance of voters are the government’s response to the corona virus pandemic and the call for social justice.  Voters backing Biden will most likely feel the government has poorly handled the response to the corona virus pandemic and that the current president is blind to the need for social justice for historically underrepresented groups.  The response to the corona virus entails questions about access to health care and the strain on the health care system, a lack of preparation due to the federal government’s failure to warn the general public and health care professionals, and an inadequate effort to implement social distancing on a national level.  In addition to the health issues, the economic impact of the corona virus plays a huge role, too, given that so many have lost jobs and are accruing debt.  Others, on the other hand, put their lives on the line to continue doing their job.  Most everyone in the middle and working class are encountering unprecedented levels of financial stress.  On top of all this, there are even questions around the timeframe for a vaccine and how such a vaccine would be distributed.  The current president has made wild claims, unsurprisingly, that a vaccine will be ready in a couple of weeks and will be distributed by the military.  On the question of social justice, while Biden does not support defunding the police, he does not consider Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements as terrorist organizations, unlike the current president.  For the current administration, there is no need for social justice, as there are no problems, in their view, with the systems in place.  These two questions, the response to the pandemic and the response to the call for social justice, are likely the most important issues that are determining the candidate voters will be supporting in the upcoming US presidential election.

Bazaar: What is the most important foreign policy issue in the upcoming US presidential election (China; Russia; North Korea; Iran; European Union; etc.)?

Richards: Interestingly, foreign policy has not been as key of a factor in the upcoming presidential election.  The current president has accused Biden and his family of corrupt business dealings with Russia and China, yet, it seems most of the material evidence points to Trump’s own business and financial ties to Russia and China.  In general, I think supporters of Biden are seeking someone who will repair the damage done by the current administration to its relationships with historical allies.  Beyond repairing relations with its Western allies, however, neither candidate has had to address many questions about foreign policy.  There could be a few factors that contribute to the relative lack of attention to foreign policy.  First, while Trump has been an aberration in so many ways, in terms of American militarism and intervention globally, he hasn’t been all that different than previous presidents and I don’t expect Biden to veer too far from the realm of traditional American foreign policy.  Second, the pandemic has also led to a sense of thinking more about one’s own immediate community than a concern with what has happened to America’s relations with other countries.  Third, the isolationism and nationalist rhetoric that Trump uses to curry favor with his Republican base also plays to far right, white nationalist groups, a sector that Trump has failed to adequately denounce or enact legislation against.  He has demonstrated time and again tacit approval and support for white nationalist groups, who share an ‘America first and only’ attitude that is part of Trump’s populist rhetoric.

Bazaar: What is the most important domestic issue influencing the upcoming US presidential election (Health (Corona); Taxation; Insurance; Salary; etc.)?

Richards: Social justice is probably the issue most influencing the upcoming election, in addition to the response to the pandemic.   Given the responses to the calls for social justice, it is clear that the current president is going to do nothing to effect change, marking a clear difference to the Democratic candidate.  While Biden is not ideal, he has already done a lot to show that he is willing to consider change and how to back up his words with the selection of Kamala Harris as the vice presidential nominee.  Trump has praised acts of police brutality and called all protesters associating themselves with the movements for social justice as terrorists, while simultaneously defending far right militias.  He has also threatened to send the military into American cities that have Democratic mayors who have been sympathetic to the call for social justice.  In addition, Trump’s handling of immigration has also been a divisive issue, leading to strong sentiment for supporters of each candidate.

Bazaar: Which candidate has the best chance of winning (Trump or Biden)?

Richards: This would be an easy question if the American national election were determined simply by the popular vote.  Biden should win the popular vote by a very large margin, much larger than Clinton in 2016.  However, as we are sadly all-too-aware, Clinton did not win the Electoral College vote. This antiquated system underrepresents urban areas to assure the representation of rural regions of the country.  As a result, there is always a chance that the electoral math adds up to the candidate with the most individual votes losing, as it did in 2016 and 2000.  The aftermath of 2000 is important to recall, too, as the election results were brought to the Supreme Court.  Presently, Republicans are hastily confirming a replacement for the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, doing so just days before the election, something unprecedented in American history.  If their candidate is confirmed, she will give conservatives a super majority in the Supreme Court, something that could drastically impact American life for the foreseeable future.  In the short term, it would pave the way for a successful challenge to the election results, if Trump loses. The current administration is already filing court cases concerning voter fraud and election irregularities.  All of this is done with the intention of sending these cases up the appellate court system and ultimately to the Supreme Court.  At the same time, there have also been efforts by Trump and the federal government to cast doubt on the legitimacy of mail-in ballots.  Simultaneously, conservatives are working to make it more difficult to vote in person, by getting rid of polling places, while also trying to cast doubt on mail-in balloting.  In addition, mail boxes and post offices have been closed, on the orders of Trump’s appointee to run the federal service, in an effort to make it more difficult to process the large number of mail-in ballots due to the pandemic.  Almost 59 million people have already voted by mail, given the pandemic and health concerns, a record number in most states.  In addition to these efforts to suppress the vote, there is even the possibility that Republican governors in states where Republicans also control the legislative branch may intervene, if Trump does not win the state’s Electoral College votes.  In case this happens, the governor in these states will appoint party loyalists to cast the state’s Electoral College votes for Trump.  Lastly, if the Electoral College, Supreme Court, and efforts at voter suppression were not enough to make the outcome of the upcoming election not as clear as it should be, Trump has not agreed to a peaceful succession of power, if he loses.  While, for the most part, the military does not support Trump, there are a number of far right militias that are gearing up for acts of violence should Trump lose the election and be forced to leave office.  In many ways, even without the pandemic, this would still be one of the most unprecedented elections in US history given the unpredictability, corruption, and lack of decency shown by the current president.

By Javad Heirannia

۱۲ آبان ۱۳۹۹ - ۱۳:۰۶
کد خبر: ۵۱٬۴۹۳

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