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  • Siddharth Kaushik

The Race to the White House- 2

The US Presidential elections have been an extravaganza for the better part of this century. However, as much of a spectacle it might be, no one can deny the importance of these elections. The land where the ideals of democracy took birth and 200 years on precedents set by the first President are still being upheld. However, these very ideals which have been the bedrock of not just the American democracy but democracies all over the world, have been intensely questioned in the build-up to the 2020 elections. As much as a fiery and rhetoric based depiction of the polls is needed, there is also a dire need of some academic overview which might facilitate a return to normalcy during a period which can only be described as abnormal.

Before I go into the intricacies of this political drama, I would establish a background, assuming that not each one of us is aware of the system along the lines of which this game of thrones work. The nominations from each party (Democrats and Republicans) is done through a series of state-wise conventions. Once both the parties have their nominees, the race to the oval office begins. Campaigning is pretty much consistent with what we see in other democracies. However, it is on the election date that things start to get messy. In America, an electoral college is formed to elect the President. This college merely is nominal in its functioning and has no power as such. The electoral college and its composition, however, are something which some people consider to be undemocratic even though it falls in line with the federal spirit. There are a total of 538 seats in the electoral college up for grabs, and therefore a president needs to have 270 seats in their favour. These 538 seats or electors are nominated from the 50 states. Each state has a different number of electors based on varying factors but primarily population. California has the most number of electors at 55, followed by Texas and New York. Now, the controversial part. So these 55 electors are divided into various districts. Like in India we have a constituency, similar is the case with America. So, California has 55 constituencies from which 55 electors are elected. Now, hypothetically, in California, if Trump wins 20 seats or constituencies and if Biden wins the remaining 35, then all of the 55 electoral votes will go to Biden instead of the 35 he won. This makes the whole process much different than what we see in India.

Now coming to the polls which are conducted by different news networks to understand the situation in various states, taking a sample of different groups of people and forming a point-based system. The latest CNN polls show a national 10 points lead for Biden with the points standing at 52-42. At this stage in 2016, CNN polls showed a 5 point lead for Clinton standing at 47-42 ahead of Trump. So yes, there is a chance that Trump might overturn the current election as well. The situation of the swing states has to be noted since it is in these states that the election can be won or lost. Usually, there are eight swing states which include Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona and Wisconsin. This year even Texas seems to be closer than ever; however, I still feel Trump will win it. Now, Biden is leading in 6 of these states with only Florida being less than 2 points. Trump’s lead in both of the remaining states is less than 2 points. If Biden can manage to win Florida and Pennsylvania, he will practically win the Presidency as they have 49 electoral votes put together. In the NY/ Sienna poll, Biden has a lead of 74, 39 and 34 points with American African, Hispanic and young voters (18-29) respectively. At this point, it seems at the outset that it is Biden’s race to lose. He is in a commanding lead, and he needs to assure that he wins the swing states which he leads in at this point.

Now, going onto the more controversial part of elections. It is necessary to state here that Trump has time and again claimed that if he loses the election, the transfer of power will not be peaceful, and he will challenge the election result. This notion stems from the fact that a lot of people will be voting from mail-in ballots. Trump has complained that mail-in votes can easily be tampered. For mail-in voting, upon an early request, a ballot is sent to the one who makes the request and they are supposed to fill necessary details like name, address and who they are voting for. Now, it is to be noted that after initial checking of the details, it is on the election day that the total counting is done. This provides a check against voter fraud.. And this is not something which started this year. It has been happening for a lot of years with the military. A lot of election experts say that there are less chances of fraud in the mail-in voting. There is no study to corroborate it, but there is absolutely zero evidence to prove that mail-in voting does, in fact lead to electoral fraud.

Now, if Donald Trump decides to challenge the result, there are quite a lot of directions the scenario could go into. I will look into the one that looks most likely to occur. There has been a lot of controversy regarding the state of Pennsylvania during this particular election. Trump has targeted the state where Biden has a marginal lead, calling it ‘a place where bad things happen.’ And yes, if Pennsylvania isn’t able to bring forward a decision regarding its electoral college or if the decision is challenged, then it is highly possible that neither candidate gets the required 270 electoral college seats. The 20 EC votes of Pennsylvania are highly crucial if the race is tightly contested. A lot of experts, who initially indicated a Biden landslide have come to claim that it will come down to the state of Pennsylvania to decide the new President. Now, if Trump does contest the decision, the decision falls in the lap of the House of Representatives. The Democrats’ majority in the House does them no good as all delegates of each state get only one vote (50 votes instead of 435) and more states have Republican representatives. There is a twist here as well. The House elections will also be conducted this year, and the new House will be sworn in before the decision on the Presidency. So it will be the new House which decides the President and even though it looks like the control of more states will remain with the Republicans, nothing can be said about that either. If it goes to that, I still feel that the new President will be Donald Trump unless there’s a blue wave during the House elections. Next, the Senate chooses the Vice President. Republicans have the majority there as well, so Mike Pence seems to be poised to retain his position. However, and again a blue wave is a condition, if the Democrats do turn the Senate upside down, having Kamala Harris as the VP to Trump’s Presidency, does no one any good. Ironically, the most apparent thing about this particular election is the solution to if the elections go into disarray. But it seems that recently, this is the kind of thing we expect from America.

Now, for my understanding from all of this, I still feel that despite a commendable comeback from Trump, Joe Biden will be the next US President. The recent scandals, the pandemic, racial issues, and the impeachment, all have played a massive role in this election. Trump does not admit it, and a lot of his ardent followers don’t either, but it remains the truth, and it will be the deciding factor. Still, I will admit that nothing can be said with surety until we have the President confirmed; nothing whatsoever.

Whatever happens, I can say this with a lot of confidence that this particular election will be highly controversial. There is almost a definite chance that if Trump loses, the decision will be challenged. It is not a far fetched idea that the American political system will go into disarray. There is a lot of chance that the decision might as well go into the hands of the Supreme Court. A Republican majority in the Supreme Court will almost ensure that whatever decision comes, whether of an executive nature or not, will be in favour of Trump. An inevitable question comes up about how these democratic ideals which the Americans have been proud of for centuries are slowly falling into an endless void of deterioration. The clock of the demise of these democratic institutions seems to resonate with the ticking of a new Doomsday clock. This is a question, which I feel should not be just restricted to democracy but can be extended to democracies and more importantly, the tenet of democracies all over the world.

By Siddharth Kaushik

The featured image first appeared on Cameroon Magazine on 9 September 2020.


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