US presidential election 2020: “This might be the most important election in our lifetime”
Will it be the Democratic candidate Joe Biden or will Donald Trump be re-elected and represent the Republicans for an extra four years? In light of the upcoming US presidential election, three Americans affiliated to Tilburg University reflect on the current political race that is taking place in their home country.
These are tensive weeks for people from the United States. With Election Day just around the corner the American people will soon decide in what direction their country is headed for the coming years. Who also have a voice in this, are the Americans studying or working at Tilburg University. Nathan Wildman (Assistant Professor in Philosophy), Riley Campbell (student Liberal Arts and Sciences) and Julia Oliver (student Psychology) are three of them. Who are they voting for? Here they agree unanimously: Trump’s time is up.
How did you vote?
Julia: “I voted three weeks ago by sending my ballot to the city clerk’s office. I called to see whether it had arrived, because it is very important that my vote is taken into account. I am from Michigan, which is a swing state, so any vote can make the difference here.”
Nathan: “Luckily, it is possible to track your vote in California, so I am sure it arrived. I do need that assurance, knowing that it is a well-known Republican tactic to suppress voting by, for example, deregistering mail boxes. Even though this happens in a legal way, it is clearly immoral and dirty.”
Riley: “For that reason I sent my ballot to my grandmother in Washington; just to be sure. What also struck me was that it was a real hassle to vote. You have to vote for millions of things and the text on the ballot paper was written in high English, which made it really hard to understand. To whose advantage is that? It really feels like they discourage you to vote.”
How do you as Americans view the current presidential election?
Nathan: “Even though it is such a cliché I think this might be the most important election in our lifetime. So many things are at stake. Personally, I am moving back and forth between fearful and hopeful. On the one hand I am afraid of the potential outcome of this election, but at the same time I am optimistic that Biden will win.”
Julia: “The standards are low this year. For me the election is already a success when no clown is elected president and it is all done in a fair manner. I think that says it all: it is not a time to be a proud American.”
Riley: “I don’t have much trust in the election at all. After Trump’s victory in 2016, I believe anything is possible. Back then I expected for us to make the right decision but we didn’t. That was really a traumatizing moment for me. Since then, I basically lost faith in my country.”
What are Trump’s strong points?
Riley: “Trump is good at manipulating people. Though this may not seem like a strength, I think it is. He masters certain techniques that help him to influence others in a way that is beneficial for him and his position of power. Not everyone is able to do that.”
Julia: “That is correct. He is very appealing to a lot of people in our society, especially to the lower educated. By playing on their fears and ignorance he knows how to win them over.”
Nathan: “Another thing he is good at is knowing how to play the big boss. He is very much aware of how to present himself in a powerful and strong manner. This makes him appear credible to many. Moreover, he is always in the right place at the right time. Some call this luck, I believe it is a quality.”
What are Trump’s weak points?
Julia: “Besides that I sincerely believe that he is a narcissist and mentally unstable, I think he is personally responsible for the erosion of our international relationships. The image of the United States as a world leader has been ruined because of his behavior.”
Riley: “Honestly, he disgusts me. Mainly because he neither speaks out against white supremacists nor condemns them. For me that equals blatant racism. Also the fact that he initially denied the existence of the coronavirus is terrible. It is partly the reason why the death toll in the US is now over 225.000.”
Nathan: “I would say that Trump’s greatest weakness is his willful ignorance. He intentionally ignores information that opposes his beliefs and opinions and simply does not want to know about contradicting facts. I think that is the worst trait you can possibly have.”
What are Biden’s strong points?
Nathan: “A strong characteristic of Biden is his humanity. He comes across as a real family man who cares for the people around him. It makes you see the human being in him, which is quite important.”
Riley: “He is open about what he has been through. For example, he talks about his son’s drug issue, which is a major social taboo in the US. That honesty causes me to empathize with him. In addition, he was the vice president of Obama – who I really loved – so voting for Biden is hoping that we will continue where we left off four years ago.”
Julia: “I think Biden is doing a relatively good job when he is speaking to the people. Instead of trying to defend himself against all verbal attacks of Trump, he focuses on his policy and on what is best for the American. This professional attitude makes it look like he is already president.”
What are Biden’s weak points?
Riley: “Despite the fact that Biden does indeed have more of the appearance of a president, he regularly dropped to Trump’s level in the first debate. Accusations were flying around and any form of decency was hard to find. That was disappointing.”
Julia: “Since education is at present the biggest national problem, I think it is a pity that Biden is not that involved with education as for example Bernie Sanders. Right now a person’s chances depend too much on his or her financial means, whereas money should not play a single role. Education should be accessible to everyone. So the entire system needs a lot of attention and I am not convinced that Biden is willing to give it that.”
Nathan: “I also preferred Bernie Sanders because, as opposed to Biden, he was not willing to compromise with the Republicans. In my opinion Biden is too conservative to guide this country into the right direction and I don’t think he will be able to address the problems we face at this moment, like climate change and health care. We need someone more radical for that.”
What do you think about the US voting system in general?
Nathan: “I’m not a fan of the Electoral College. Perhaps it made sense in the past but it doesn’t anymore. It causes a strange situation in which my vote in Democratic California is worth less than a vote of someone else who is living in a small county in swing state Ohio.”
Riley: “I agree, the system is not a good representation of what the people want. This is because in almost all states there is a winner-takes-all principle. Why would you vote for a party that doesn’t have any chance to win? That would be a waste of your vote.”
Julia: “The Republicans and the Democrats have a monopoly since they are the only ones who have the financial resources to launch a national campaign. Due to this two-party system we basically lack other options, which means that there is not much room for nuance. This black-and-white thinking sparks polarization and makes politics such a sensitive topic to talk about with friends and family.”