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Friday, October 09, 2020, 14:26 (GMT+7)
Challenges, competitiveness, and prospects in the 2020 US presidential election

The US presidential election is scheduled for November as a political event of paramount importance to the destiny of the world superpower. The election is about to take place, but developments within the US society are extremely complex. Challenges, intense competitiveness, and prospects in this election represent matters of public concern.

Challenges within the U.S. society

In 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic has broken out and spread at breakneck speed. America has become the epicentre of the COVID-19 with the highest number of cases and deaths compared to other countries in the world, raising numerous doubts about the way Donald Trump’s Administration has handled the pandemic. At the onset of the COVID-19, the U.S. Administration and its health sector had not realised the seriousness of this epidemic; therefore, they had not adopted drastic preventive measures. When the COVID-19 became extremely complicated with a too vast number of deaths, America fell into shock. Many states and cities decided to close their doors and prohibit public gatherings. It should be noted that President Donald Trump had to declare a state of national emergency, implement social distancing, and evoke the Defence Production Act against the epidemic. With such measures, in late April 2020, the U.S. had succeeded in manufacturing sufficient medical materials for preventing and controlling the epidemic, establishing a treatment regimen, regulating its system of hospitals to avoid overload, and enhancing the development of vaccine against the COVID-19.

While the U.S. economy saw a strong growth with the lowest unemployment rate of 3.5% over the past 50 years and the average GDP growth of 2.5% in the first three years of Donald Trump’s term (higher than that of Barack Obama), the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the U.S. economy into a recession and ended 127 consecutive months of economic growth. Consumption of goods and services sharply decreased. A large number of businesses and factories faced bankruptcy. The unemployment rate increased rapidly (14.7% in July 2020) while the U.S. GDP dramatically declined (by 5.2% in the first quarter and by 32.9% in the second quarter).

The crisis within the U.S. left many citizens unemployed. They were unable to feed their families, thus falling into a state of insecurity. Moreover, ethnic discrimination and income inequality are always serious matters deepening the gap within the U.S. society. African Americans have the lowest income and the unemployment rate amongst this group of people is twice as high as white Americans. Also, they suffer discrimination in the judiciary system.

While the people were discontented with loss of jobs and a decrease in their income due to the epidemic, the case of George Floyd, a black man who had been killed by police, led to the outbreak of demonstrations and riots against discrimination across states and cities of America. In response to an increase in violence, Donald Trump’s Administration had to deploy thousands of National Guard troops. Normally, such demonstrations would not last long. However, as the people were being disaffected and incited by the “Black Lives Matter” movement, demonstrations by US citizens still took place and became a serious problem in this country.

Disunity within the U.S. is increasingly severe and expressed by a political polarisation between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Since it won control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 mid-term elections, the Democratic Party has continuously hampered the agenda of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. It opposed the construction of US-Mexico border wall, investigated the President’s family business, asked the President to publicise his income tax return, and especially impeached Donald Trump in the House of Representatives. Currently, most of the issues are politicised while words and actions go beyond a competition between political parties. During an interview on August 26th, 2020, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives called the Republican Party the “internal enemy” of American. Disagreement between the two parties caused the U.S. a lot of difficulties in developing and implementing policies, such as the 5th stimulus package for its citizens and businesses in response to the COVID-19 or measures against demonstrations and riots.

Confrontation and disunity prior to the election

In the current politico-social situation, the race for the White House between the incumbent President Donald Trump and Joe Biden becomes more intense than ever before. Most of the policies by one of them are vehemently opposed by the other or vice versa.

Concerning the response to the COVID-19, Joe Biden kept criticising President Donald Trump for his slowness in the first stage of the epidemic, adding that the President only sought to blame others (WHO and China) after the outbreak of COVID-19. He also thought that the President had not believed in advice from doctors and medical experts and that Trump had given wrong medical recommendations about medications against the COVID-19 to his citizens. Joe Biden and his Democratic Party suggested that scientists give consistent advice to the people and the Administration increase budgets for businesses to create more employments and provide free COVID-19 test and treatment.

Regarding economic recovery, President Donald Trump believed that the U.S. should reopen its economy and schools while Joe Biden said that the untimely reopening without a specific strategy would make the country unable to control the epidemic. Joe Biden also recommended increasing tax up to 4,000 billion USD to implement federal programmes aimed at providing direct financial assistance for the people and states, increasing unemployment allowance, and driving the U.S. out of the recession. This plan goes against President Donald Trump’s policy on tax reduction.

With reference to the settlement of demonstrations and riots, President Donald Trump strongly criticised the Black Lives Matter Movement for complicating the situation in states, fiercely condemned riots, emphasised the importance of police to maintaining the order, deployed the National Guard, and even announced the possibility of dispatching military units to states and cities to suppress demonstrations and restore “law and order.” Meanwhile, Joe Biden denounced the President’s handling of the crisis, claiming that his rival’s solutions only increased violence and disunity within America. A number of members of the Democratic Party are now calling for a reduction in police budget; however, Joe Biden disagrees with this plan. Additionally, the Democratic Party’s platform in 2020 is totally different from President Donald Trump’s policies on economic-commercial development, health insurance, and climate change prevention.

The two presidential nominees and the two parties also kept attacking each other verbally unacceptably within a normal competition. Donald Trump called Joe Biden a “puppet” of the far-left or “sleepy Joe,” described his rival’s political career as dull in contrast with the image of the President who always took action, dealt with issues and developed the US economy impressively in the first three year of his term. Meanwhile, Biden’s campaign was aimed at criticising Trump’s ineffective settlement of the epidemic that put the U.S. into a crisis and at transforming the election into a referendum on the President’s leadership capacity. US voters are also divided into two groups evidently; only 10% of them have yet to decide to support Trump or Biden.

Will the U.S. overcome the crisis?

Although the U.S. is now confronted with a lot of difficulties, there is reason for optimism in the upcoming time.

First, in spite of the fact the COVID-19 poses many challenges, it is also a chance for the U.S. to reform its health system and change its methods of ensuring resources for preventing and combating the current pandemic as well as for dealing with other ones in the future. In addition to invoking the Defence Production Act, on August 6th, 2020, the U.S announced an Executive Order to develop domestic medical goods, maintain long-term supply, respond to the threats posed by infectious diseases, and reduce dependence on other countries. According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the fatality rate by the COVID-19 (3.02%) is only slightly higher than that by seasonal flu (2.8%). At present, the number of COVID-19 cases is still high; however, it is considerably lower than July 2020. The CDC also annulled the regulation on 14-day quarantine for persons infected with the COVID-19. In its recent letter to states, it asked them to readily cooperate with the McKesson Corporation in distributing vaccine to their citizens since November 1st, 2020.

Second, the US economy is displaying several signs of recovery. The unemployment rate has decreased for 4 consecutive months from 14.7% to 8.4% and it is estimated to keep declining when states completely reopen. Production has been restored with the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) keeping rising for the last 4 months. The U.S. stock market is also better than before the epidemic. The country’s economy is predicted to witness a “V-shaped” recovery after the COVID-19 is controlled. Apparently, rescue packages by the U.S. Administration and the reopening of states have started working.

Third, disunity within the U.S. society and political system has existed for ages and become the nature of bipartisan politics. The country’s history has experienced periods with the internal discord, such as the American Civil War (1861-1865), the US engagement in the war in Vietnam (1960-1970), or the Watergate scandal (1974) that led to the resignation of President Nixon. Recovery after disunity was often difficult and took a long time, but it all brought about positive transformations, such as abolishing slavery, ensuring the rights of black people and women’s suffrage, or paving the way for communications to improve the transparency of the Administration. Current disagreements will not be resolved in several presidential terms. Hence, whoever is elected the 46th President of the United States of America will have to deal with such issues. However, if the COVID-19 is controlled, the economy recovers quickly, and citizens go back to work, it is more likely that demonstrations and riots will be reduced.

Generally speaking, although the U.S. is undergoing challenges, crisis and disunity, there is always reason to believe that the U.S. presidential election will still take place on schedule (November 2020). And American voters will decide who will be their president in the next 4 years.

MY CHAU, Department of American Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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