OPINION: What issues await the winner of the US Election?

A pessimistic election sign reading 'Everybody Sucks, We're Screwed 2020'

Whether the Democrats or Republicans prevail in this election, the next four years hold some undeniably huge hurdles for any head of state to clear.

As election season has trudged to its nail-biting conclusion, in a year seemingly already full to the brim with chaos and uncertainty, it has become easy to see November 3rd 2020 as a sort of endgame moment. If Trump wins, we’re in for another four years of alternative facts, legislative mayhem and truly memorable twitter explosions. However, if Biden wins, the future is not necessarily as predictable as some would like; though many in the centre and centre-left would snatch at a chance to return to an Obama-adjacent period of steady progress, there is a naivety in the belief that the demons of Trump’s first term can be so easily forced back into Pandora’s box.

From Charlottesville to the anti-mask protests, a certain kind of proud and openly hard right conservative movement has stirred in America, and the concept of the silent majority seems ever more like it will not take a loss quietly. Though Trump embodies much more than his more extreme acolytes, standing just as much for big pharma, fossil fuel corporations and pipe dream right-libertarians as he does for the more militantly inclined, it is not Exxon-Mobil employees that will take to the streets in the case of a Democratic win. We have seen, too, the righteous anger of America’s left, with Black Lives Matter protests growing increasingly heated in the face of unchecked and rampant police violence, as those that feel more and more forgotten by the justice system become understandably impatient at the continued state of affairs. These issues are not just undeniable, but pose huge challenges for both prospective heads of state.

Trump’s hardcore base are primed to reject any result but a victory for their republican strongman.

If Biden wins the election, he will be faced with the issue of attempting to placate the Black Lives Matter movement in a manner that adequately solves the issue of excessive police militarisation, without losing the confidence of the democratic party who have long been hesitant to make meaningful reforms to American policing. Though ideally some kind of structural reform, demilitarisation, and reallocation of expenditure to social services, healthcare and community building would be the solution, such seemingly radical change will be unlikely from a candidate branding himself as a safe pair of hands. This also has to be juggled with protecting vulnerable communities to the inevitable, if entirely unpredictable backlash from the far right. Trump’s hardcore base are primed to reject any result but a victory for their republican strongman, and the fallout of that potential conflict will not confine itself to heated twitter debates.

Protest with banner reading 'If you think your mask makes it hard to breathe, imagine being black in America'
Photo: Duncan Shaffer, via Unsplash.com

If Trump wins… Well, the situation may become a little more complicated. With a stacked supreme court, who is to say how the New York business tycoon handles social unrest. A pessimist might speculate that fanning the flames of the right’s militant wing may itself be Trump’s favoured solution to any resistance from the Democrats and the left, and truth be told, in a post-Charlottesville world, there isn’t much to suggest otherwise.

There are other issues beyond immediate post-election conflict, however. Neither party seems to have adequate answers to the increasingly grim outlook on the climate crisis, with Biden’s flip-flopping on fracking an indication that the Democratic establishment are sorely mistaken on what kind of action needs to be taken, and when. As time runs out, and issues of glacial melting, a collapse in biodiversity and the inexorable rise of global average temperatures become ever more pressing, it will be fascinating to see how either candidate will tackle issues on a scale and magnitude not seen since the numerous Cold War near-apocalypses.

The ever-present issue of COVID-19 is, of course, utterly unavoidable. Trump’s laissez-faire approach has led to an abnormally high fatality rate, with over 200,000 American lives now taken by the pandemic, and any policy shift towards mitigating this disaster would be absolutely essential. The death toll, regardless of Trump’s blustering, will become untenable, and the scar that this situation will leave on the American political sphere will be harder than any to reconcile. On the flip side, any federally mandated restrictions on businesses being open or public gatherings may stoke the same anti-mask sentiment that erupted earlier this year, so this is a tricky tightrope to walk.

A democratic win is no sure-fire return to normalcy, and may pose just as many issues as it solves.

Beyond these issues, big questions still remain. Healthcare remains a poisoned chalice in policy terms, as the imperfect affordable care act has proven underwhelming at best, and at worst has been structurally undermined by Republican governance at a state and local level, leaving it dead in the water in many red states. This will only be exacerbated by job losses that could leave millions uninsured and at risk of homelessness, with federal intervention the only feasible option to avert huge swathes of the American population sliding into poverty. Foreign policy, and whether Trump continues to gut the US’ support of international organisations, or if Biden can mend these very same rifts, are equally pressing issues, and during an election where policy has been jettisoned in favour of the unavoidable clash of ideologies and personalities, it’s hard to know what the future holds beyond the headline-grabbing issues. Though a Biden presidency is undoubtedly the preferable outcome, a democratic win is no sure-fire return to normalcy, and may pose just as many issues as it solves.

All that can really be sure is that the coming weeks, months and years will be interesting, and as the old adage goes, living in interesting times is less a blessing than it is a curse.

If you’re interested in The New Collection’s coverage of the US election, we have more coverage coming out in the coming days, including this piece on what Biden means for American Liberalism. You can also keep up with our coverage of current affairs, lifestyle and culture, on our social media channels – be sure to follow us on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/newcollectionuk/), and Twitter (https://twitter.com/NewCollectBlog).

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Harry Higginson

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