After what feels like the longest run-up in history, the 2020 US presidential election finally takes place today (November 3). Whether you’re in the US or not, though, the results will likely have an impact on your life, on both an individual and societal level.
What are our options? In the blue corner, we’ve got Joe Biden – Democratic candidate, man of the people and Barack Obama’s former Vice President (and meme co-star). In the red corner, there’s Donald Trump – current President, fan of using Twitter as his own very public journal, known hyperbolist and man averse to responsibility.
We might have to wait a while to find out which one it is thanks to mail-in voting and a certain candidate’s nature of being a sore loser, but one of these men will shape the next four years of life in America. Like it or not, the ramifications of their presidency will also be felt around the world, including in the UK. While one choice might seem better than the other on the surface, their individual policies will affect us in different ways – sometimes for the better; sometimes less so. Let’s take a closer look at what a win for either candidate could mean for you and the issues you care about.
What does a Biden victory mean for…
In September, the cost of P and O visas – which are generally used by touring artists – were raised by over 50 per cent. While Biden hasn’t specifically spoken about these visas in his policies, it is thought that immigration and visas will be more accessible generally if he takes up office in the White House. For Muslim musicians who might have struggled to get a visa under the Trump administration – well, that shouldn’t be a problem anymore. Biden has promised to reverse Trump’s travel ban on countries that are predominantly Muslim within his first 100 days in office.
If you thought education in the UK was expensive, spare a thought for US students. In America, unversities can charge more money if you’re not a resident of the state the school is located in and, even if you are, fees for four-year colleges can begin around the $10,000 (£7,756) mark per year. That leaves a lot of students saddled with a ton of debt on graduating – something Biden wants to tackle. He’s proposed cutting $10k of student loan debt and halting both payments and interest if you earn under $25,000 (£19.4k). He’s also planning on making studying at public universities and historically Black universities free if your family makes less than $125,000 (£97k). Community college and training programmes would also be free if Biden were to win.
For the UK, a future with President Biden in it could be safer for the NHS than the alternative. His position on weighing into our healthcare system isn’t clear, but given he’s trying to move America to a place where healthcare is more accessible, it doesn’t seem like he would be pushing for US companies to be involved in any privatisation.
A Biden victory won’t put paid to paying for healthcare in the US, but it won’t make things worse at least. As you’d expect from someone who was involved in implementing Obamacare (aka the Affordable Care Act) in the first place, he wants to protect and expand that programme rather than abolish it. One of his policies is based on offering all Americans the chance to buy into public insurance rather than from a private company, which will keep prices lower and make choosing between getting treatment and being able to pay your bills less of a headache.
There was a stark difference between Biden and Trump at the recent presidential debates – only one of them was seen wearing a mask at the beginning and end. Unlike Trump, Biden supports a proposed nationwide mask mandate, as well as a national contact tracing programme and free coronavirus testing across the country. Of the two candidates, he seems the most cautious to reopen affected areas which, when done too quickly, has seen huge spikes in cases. All that means that life might be slow to get back to some semblance of normal in the US, but fewer lives will be lost and fewer futures impacted in the long-term.
One of the first things Biden has pledged to do if he should be elected is sign America back up with the Paris Climate Accord so it can do its bit in fighting climate change. While he’s not pushing for the Green New Deal that other Democrats have fought for, one of his key environmental policies is to get the US on the path to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 which, if reached, should have a positive impact on slowing global warming.
The former VP has also suggested drilling oil and gas on public land should be banned and has earmarked a whopping $2 trillion to invest in green energy. Some might say he could do more, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Racism and police brutality
Unlike his opponent, Biden acknowledges that there is a systemic racism problem within US law enforcement. His policies aim to address racial disparities, like decriminalising marijuana and expunging criminal records related to the drug, or offering grants to states that lower their incarceration rates. He’s also proposed ending the death penalty, getting rid of cash bail and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences.
Biden won’t bring about a completely radical change in the police, though, refusing to go so far as to defund the service. Instead, he plans to invest in social services (including mental health) and community policing, which he’ll hope will elevate the standard of policing in America.
This is one area where a Biden presidency might not be so great for Britain in its current state. The former VP has been vocal about his disagreement with the UK leaving the EU in the past, saying he would have voted remain if he was a British citizen or MP. He’s also made it clear that a trade deal between the UK and US will be hard to agree to if a border is reintroduced between the Republic Of Ireland and Northern Ireland – something that would undermine the Good Friday Agreement.
If a free-trade deal is to be agreed between the US and the UK, it’ll need to be done by April 1, ahead of the President’s ability to fast-track trade deals expiring. Biden wouldn’t be inaugurated into the White House until late January so he’d have to work quickly and closely with Boris Johnson to meet that deadline – but will he be inclined to make this a priority given he doesn’t have the strongest relationship with the PM? Trade deals might sound a bit yawn but putting one in place with America could help the UK weather Brexit a bit better, with experts saying a deal could boost the UK economy and make it easier to import goods to the US.
What does a Trump victory mean for…
Again, the relevant visas aren’t something Trump has addressed specifically in his policies, but – looking at what he has tackled in terms of immigration and movement – it doesn’t look like he will be making things easier. Expect him to uphold travel bans, still obsess over that wall between Mexico and make the process of getting a visa even more of a chore.
Trump’s education policies aren’t promising – mostly because he doesn’t have many. Unlike Biden, he doesn’t even mention student loans or higher education, putting his focus on “teaching American exceptionalism”. So, while US students might not get any help with paying for their courses, at least in their formative years they’ll be taught an absolutely unbiased history of how great America has been and could once be again…
A Trump victory is worrying for the UK in the context of healthcare. He’s spoken previously about wanting the NHS to be open to American companies and suggested a US-UK trade deal post-Brexit would only be possible if the healthcare system was up for grabs. For his part, Boris Johnson has said the NHS will not be up for negotiation, but that hardly seems like the safest of promises.
It’s a different story if Trump gets re-elected. He wants to get rid of the ACA completely, meaning insurance will be less obtainable and more expensive – although this was also one of his campaign policies in 2016 and still hasn’t happened. On the other hand, he has promised to bring down drug prices – will he actually come good on this plan?
Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been chaotic, to say the least. He’s denied the disease is a problem, refused to lead by example and wear a mask, held events that have been pinpointed as super-spreaders, ignored scientists’ advice and encouraged his citizens to put bleach in their bodies.
Moving forward, Trump’s policies are less erratic on paper (although who knows how the really would pan out). He’s dedicating $10billion to developing a vaccine but, instead of trying to flatten the curve with proven methods, is focused on re-opening the country to lessen the economic impact. Until a proven vaccine is available and able to be distributed (for which he says he’ll get the military involved), America will likely be at the mercy of the virus.
Don’t expect this one to pan out very well. Trump is a known climate change denier and has already withdrawn the US from the Paris Climate Accord, which is dedicated to rectifying climate change, in his first four years in office. If he gets re-elected, his policies will make America an even bigger contributor to global warming, with the current President looking to prioritise non-renewable energy such as oil and gas. He’ll also remove limits on how much carbon dioxide power plants and vehicles can emit. All in all, a Trump second term looks bad for the future of our planet.
Racism and police brutality
Given his response to the protests around George Floyd’s death earlier this year, which saw Black Lives Matter supporters pelted with rubber bullets and tear gas, it’s no surprise to learn that Trump is on the side of law enforcement. However, he has ordered the creation of a database that can track abuse from officers and vaguely discussed banning dangerous methods of restraining detainees, although he’s yet to take proper action on the latter. Importantly, though, he’s said he doesn’t think racism is a systemic problem within the police, so moves towards meaningful reform seem unlikely.
Despite backing Brexit, Trump has also spoken negatively about reintroducing a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland – partially a reflection of Ireland’s influence in American politics.
As for a trade deal: you might think Trump and Johnson’s mutual appreciation society might make things easier. However, Trump will want to prioritise America in his trade deals, meaning the UK will likely get the shorter end of the stick in any agreement.