U.S. Election: Outcomes and Implications in an Era of Uncertainty

Nekbakht Alibekova, Staff Reporter

(Photo/ Elijah Nouvelage; Getty Images)

The U.S. general election results will affect the global trajectory for the coming four years and beyond, according to a panel held on Nov.3. 

This event was organized by Georgetown University in Qatar and moderated by Ahmad Dallal, the dean of GU-Q. Panelists Clyde Wilcox, professor of government; Amanda Garrett, assistant professor of political science; Trish Kahle, assistant professor of American history; and Anatol Lieven, professor of government, provided an analysis on the outcomes of the election and how they will affect broader global issues. This includes the shape of the economy and the fate of democracies, the environment, immigration and international relations.

The Rule of Law

Wilcox started the discussion by addressing the end of the Trump presidency.

“Donald Trump is the first presidential candidate, first incumbent president not to agree to accept the outcome of an election. He has in fact refused to do this for the entire campaign,” said Wilcox. 

To support his point, Wilcox brought up evidence of how Trump invited armed private militias to show up at the polls.

Despite Joe Biden’s presidential win yesterday, Trump tweeted, “I WON THE ELECTION, BY A LOT!” and his campaign has promised to sue over voting procedures nationwide.

“He [Trump] has a massive team of lawyers, hoping to challenge the counting of ballots, hoping to throw out hundreds of thousands if not millions of ballots,” said Wilcox. “He hopes to either throw out those ballots or tie up the election in court so long that we can’t really get the counting done, and then there is some doubt as to the outcome, and then maybe the state legislators in those states will simply send his electors instead.”

Apart from repeatedly asking the attorney general to arrest his opponent while spreading conspiracy theories, Trump has also called upon his support base. 

“He has told his supporters the only way he can lose is if there is a massive fraud,” said Wilcox. “And he told the violent white nationalist group, the Proud Boys, to stand down but to stand by.”

According to Wilcox, Trump is unique in disregarding the rule of law but the Republicans more broadly have been trying to suppress the vote for years. The 53 Republican senators who constitute the majority represent 44 percent of Americans. So this is a minority party that seeks to hold on to power by limiting voting rights,” he said.

Wilcox explained that by limiting the voting stations for mail-in ballots to just one per county in Texas, the Republicans increased the challenges of in-person voting. It would take a long time to reach the only drop-off location in each of the counties. It would also form a long waiting line for the large populations as they stand for their turn to drop off the mail-in ballots. 

In-person voting benefits the Republicans, Wilcox said, adding that the Republicans think the Democrats are more afraid of the virus, therefore not willing to vote in-person. 

The last time a Republican candidate won the national popular vote was in 2004 and prior to that in 1988. “[Republicans] think the only way they could win is by tossing out the votes,” said Wilcox. 

Immigration and Immigration Policies

According to the Pew Research Center, during the 2020 election campaigns, the U.S. presidential candidates and the voters focused on other urgent matters such as economy, healthcare, and crime and gun policies more than on immigration.

Garrett highlighted that unlike the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, immigration and immigration policies have been absent from the 2020 election campaigns, including the presidential and vice-presidential debates and the parallel town halls.

The Wall Street Journal report that was issued just recently of sort of all the election issues that were talked about over the campaign cycle in the media—the news and the ads—found that immigration was actually the least mentioned of all the campaign issues,” said Garrett.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump outlined his objectives to stop funding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), increase border security funding, increase deportation of illegal and undocumented migrants, and build the Mexico wall among others.

“In fact, immigration basically became Trump’s brand even before he had sort of accepted the Republican nomination,” said Garett.

As a president, Trump implemented many of his objectives, which will have long-lasting effects. “He implemented more than 400 executive actions on immigration alone,” pointed out Garrett. “The Muslim ban, closing the Southern border, mass deportations and of course building the wall.”

Some of these policies, however, have also turned out to be political vulnerabilities for Trump. “The child separation policy, for example, at the border,” added Garrett. “When this was implemented, when this was put into practice, it sparked massive outrage amongst the public.”

Trump’s voter base also includes many anti-immigrant activists, who are frustrated due to the lack of immigration reforms with Trump in the White House. “One of the sort of more hardcore anti-immigrant institutions or organizations called Numbers USA ranks policies and elected officials on an immigration policy. Trump has actually been rated as fairly unsuccessful,” she said.

Throughout the election, Joe Biden had been less clear on what his objectives are for immigration and immigration policies.

Biden promised to freeze deportations for a hundred days (from his inauguration). He also promised to roll back some of Trump-administration zero-tolerance policies, the detention programs, and the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP)—a policy that has kept asylum seekers out of the US. 

The president-elect of the U.S., also promised to reinstate temporary protected status for some groups of asylum seekers.

“What we do know is that Biden is going to inherit a mess. He is going to inherit hundreds of policies and executive actions that he has to somehow unravel, so he’ll have to take stock of what has been done and try to right some of the wrongs that have happened in the last four years,” said Garrett.

Climate Crisis Response

Kahle said that with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration over the last four years, and the global climate crisis unfolding every day, we are running out of time to address the climate crisis in a way that will mitigate the worst impacts for the most vulnerable both in the U.S. and also around the world.

“I also think it’s important to recognize that even a mitigated crisis will still be a crisis that the world will struggle to cope with. It calls into question basic norms of political and economic life than many of us have taken for granted,” said Kahle.

The COVID-19 pandemic, in her opinion, is in part a test run for the climate crisis. “And if we view it that way we should be profoundly concerned about the future for the United States,” she said.

The wildfires in California this year and hurricanes in Louisiana are examples of how amidst the pandemic, the U.S. population had to deal with other catastrophes, increasing the risk of contracting COVID-19, with destroyed or left no shelter at all.

“The pandemic and the climate crisis both require range planning and commitments and they often have remedies that would be mutually supporting,” said Kahle.

Biden has the most extensive plan ever put forward by a mainstream presidential candidate to tackle this, according to Kahle.  “And yet, it still falls far short of the bold vision that is actually needed,” she said.

She also criticized Biden’s claims to not ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, because despite relying on the Green New Deal as a crucial framework and vowing to rejoin the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, he still supports the massive gas and oil industries in the U.S.

Kahle pointed out a couple of issues that need to be addressed by Biden’s administration. These include “the issue of environmental justice as it relates to the development of nuclear power which has not been adequately addressed in his plan,” she said.

It is also vital for the new president to address the climate and environmental impacts of the military presence and military bases worldwide, she added.

Lastly, although aiming more towards expanding electric car infrastructure, Biden has also failed to address the issue of resource development. “Particularly lithium, which is a global justice issue,” said Kahle.

The U.S. Constitution and The Global Political Impact of The Election 

Today, while the U.S. constitution is being discussed more widely than before, it is very, very difficult to change the kind of majorities you need first in the Senate, then among the states, which makes it impossible in a highly polarized political system to bring about these changes,” said Lieven.

Though the elections successfully proceeded without a constitutional breakdown, according to Lieven, such breakdowns may still be inevitable in the future.

“Now, if God forbid, we see a constitutional breakdown in the next few weeks then hopefully, hopefully out of that will come a national consensus that something does have to be changed because otherwise, the United States is likely to face such breakdowns again and again. Even if America dodges a bullet this time, it’s unlikely to do so forever given the terms of the U.S. constitution,” he said.

Lieven and the other panelists prompted the question, will the democrats win the senate?

“If [the democrats] don’t win the senate then they are to great extent crippled, you know, as Obama was in his second term,” said Lieven, as the Supreme Court is now a politically polarized body with a built in 6-3 Republican majority.

Lieven said that proposals to enforce certain smaller changes in the procedural changes of the elections, and plans to one day increase the number of democratic nominees at the Supreme Court, ultimately leading to an equal number of nominees for the democrats and the republicans at the Supreme Court, can have a significant effect.

The other issue that remains is the composition of the senate. “You cannot change the one state-two senators rule, but of course it has been proposed very strongly that there should be a real movement to give statehood to the District of Columbia and possibly to Puerto Rico, which would change the balance in the Senate,” he said.

Unless the aforementioned actions are taken, we may eventually see a mass movement for constitutional reform and a new civil rights movement if you will,” said Lieven. This may especially be true, considering the U.S. constitution already favors the majority white population, especially the conservatives.  

Internationally, China currently remains the only issue where the Democrats and the Republicans stand on one side, Lieven mentioned. Furthermore, one of the major changes one should expect from Biden is the return of the nuclear deal with Iran. Despite statements claiming a possible renegotiation between Biden and the Iranians, “the Iranians have made it absolutely clear that that [renegotiation] is not acceptable but you must go back to the full deal or nothing,” he said.

Biden’s environmental policies can also impact foreign policies. “If America is to really pursue moves to limit carbon emissions at home, then it should link American trade policy and tariffs to this as well,” said Lieven, “requiring the U.S. to be very tough on some of its friends and allies.”

The plan to become more sustainable will also need capital for infrastructure investments and bringing in measures. Lieven predicted that the U.S. may need to borrow money, especially from China, meaning higher taxes.

Lieven said he is optimistic that the atmospherics and the relations with Europe will be much better under Biden’s administration.

“But I wonder how much real change we will see in U.S. foreign and security policy, which is after all in the end but product not of one man but of the American establishment,” he added.

 

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