The Gist

The 59th U.S. presidential election will be one of the most important events in recent American history. Not only is one of the most polarizing political figures in American up for re-election, but there will be a confluence of major political factors that together have the power to significantly transform the United States for a generation…or more!

Why does it matter

Under the current administration, the U.S has witnessed a drastic departure from social and political norms. The government has become increasingly polarized and entrenched in partisan politics to such an extent that basic functions of the government have practically ground to a halt. As a response to this, the President has sought to repeatedly push the limit of his presidential powers in order to circumvent congress and accomplish his goals.

To some, this is the erosion of governmental checks and balances. To others, this is Trump pushing back against “big government” and implementing the changes he promised. But Trump is by no means the first President or government official to attempt to abuse his powers. And for better or for worse, he has single-handedly exposed, though exacerbated, some of the most deeply-routed issues in American politics – from the influence of money, to systemic corruption, to an increasingly non-independent judiciary, and of course a hopelessly divided congress. But, he has also taught the American people an important lesson: Democracy is fragile and needs constant attention, lest it creep down the slow and gradual path towards authoritarianism.

Add to this the flare up in racial tensions, record government debt, trade wars, foreign attacks on U.S elections, corruption, cronyism, climate change, and of course, a global pandemic that has caused record unemployment not seen since the Great Depression, and The State of the Union is indeed uncertain.

The outcome of this election will not only dictate how the U.S pulls itself out of this multi-faceted crises, but what America will look like for the next generation or more. The decisions made on November 3rd will have a significant impact in shaping all 3 branches of government. Here’s a quick overview:

  1. The Presidency and administration – Who will lead the country forward? If Trump loses the election, will he yield power? If he wins, will he seek a 3rd term?
  2. Control of the House – will it flip Republican?
  3. Control of the Senate – will it flip Democrat?
  4. The supreme court appointments – will future vacancies be filled with Republican or Democrat judges?
  5. The dicennial redistricting process – how important will your future vote actually be?

More details please

So, what are the big issues for 2020?

Coronavirus. With nearly 1 million dead worldwide and the U.S making up almost 1/4 of all cases, the Coronavirus pandemic is by far biggest and most prevalent issue on people’s minds right now. It has had a enormous impact on the health, well-being and prosperity of the American people.

Economy. A recurring theme in elections, but made all the more important due to the widespread impact of Coronavirus. While the broader stock market has endured volatile swings, the nation’s economy shrank by nearly 33 percent and job losses peaked at almost 15 percent. Uncertainties remain about the lasting impact of the pandemic and other hot-button issues, such as global instability and trade tensions.

Health Care. Access to medical care, the affordability of that care, and reducing the uninsured population are the big issues in the debate surrounding healthcare. Abortion and access to contraception also remain top of mind.

Race Relations. This one shouldn’t be of any surprise. Amid ongoing protests of police brutality and unequal treatment of African Americans, the pandemic has shone a spotlight on how catastrophic events disproportionately affect the more marginalized groups across the United States.

Supreme Court. The highest court in the land has already witnessed several big changes in recent years. But unbeknownst to many, almost half of the current sitting justices are 70 years of age or older. As such there will likely be vacancies in the next four years, affording the sitting President the power to shape the judiciary in his image.

The election and Democracy itself. The democratic nature of the U.S republic is at stake. Digital and social media have created an environment where opinions are formed and actions are taken without due consideration of the information being presented. This is something that political candidates, special interest groups, and hostile foreign powers are acutely aware of and are currently using to influence the American elections (among other tactics). Private interest money is rampant in politics, with upwards of 3 billion dollars set to be spent during this election cycle by the candidates alone.

For more details, check out Important Pew’s article Issues in the 2020 Election

who are the Presidential candidates?

Leading the Democratic charge is Joe Biden. He is a career politician who served as the U.S Senator from Delaware for an astonishing 36 years and then as Vice President alongside former President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017. This marks his third Presidential election run, and if elected Biden, now 77, will be the oldest president ever inaugurated in American history.

Key Platform Policies:

  1. Coronavirus. A comprehensive and unifying plan to beat Covid-19
  2. Economy. Reduce trade tensions, increase corporate and upper-income taxes and raise minimum wage to $15
  3. Health Care. Expand coverage for Americans, but does not support Medicare-for-all
  4. Criminal Justice. Abolish death penalty, eliminate private prisons, reduce number of Americans incarcerated
  5. Race Relations. Comprehensive agenda to address disparities affecting African Americans

For more, check out Who Is Joe Biden?


Leading the Republican charge is incumbent President, Donald J. Trump. Unlike Biden, Trump had no prior political experience before coming to office. He came to power as a populist candidate fighting against corruption, illegal immigration and a promise to bring change. His first four years in office have been highly controversial: he is the 3rd President to have been impeached, he signed into a law a record number of executive orders, and he has stoked tensions with both allies and foes.

Key Platform Policies:

  • Coronavirus. Eradicate the virus and return America to “normal” in 2021. (However, his position on Coronavirus has been inconsistent)
  • Economy. Create jobs, reduce regulations, reduce trade deficits ad end reliance on China
  • Health care. Reduce drug prices and insurance premiums, cover all pre-exiting conditions, limit access to abortion
  • Criminal Justice. Increase police funding, end cashless bail system, prosecute extremists and terrorists
  • Immigration. Reform the system and reduce illegal immigration

For more, check out Who Is Donald Trump?

Why does it matter who wins the house?

Control of the House is important because this body of Congress is responsible originating most new legislation and spending bills, as well as conducting oversight of the sitting president and other government officials (up to and including impeachment, which we all saw play out spectacularly in 2019). Nearly 1/4 of all seats in the House that are up for re-election are contested, meaning that they could potentially swing from one party to another. Democrats currently control the house and the Republicans would needs to flip at least 18 seats to gain a majority – a tall order considering that the contested seats currently run about 60/40 in favour of Democrats.

Why does it matter who wins the senate?

If we think of the House as the rule makers of the game, the Senate then comprises the officials who enforce those rules. The senate must approve (or conversely block) legislation in order for it to pass into law. It is also responsible for approving the President’s nominations for appointments to high-level government positions and to the Supreme Court. This cycle, there are 35 Senate seats up for re-election, with the majority of those being defended by Republicans. This means that the Democrats will only need to flip 3 or 4 seats in order to win a majority. The implications of this are rather important as, up until now, the sitting President has been allowed to act with impunity by the majority-held Republican Senate. If the Senate flips, but Trump remains President, his authority and ability to pass executive orders, and thus circumvent congress, may become severely limited. Future impeachable offenses may also result in his removal from office if the majority of Senators vote to convict.

How will this election impact the supreme court?

The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and is comprised of nine justices who hold their appointments for life! While the President and Congress are responsible for creating and implementing legislation, it is up to the courts to decide if that legislation actually adheres to the constitution. The Supreme court also acts as a check on Presidential and Congressional power and may step in to determine the legitimacy of election results. The presidential candidate who wins the 2020 election may be able to re-shape the Supreme court in their vision as 4 justices are above the age of 70, 2 of which are in their 80s. (Update: on September 18th, 2020 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, RIP. This means that Republicans may have the opportunity to force though a Republican nominee before the election and solidify the conservative tilt of the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future).

What is the REDISTRICTING process and why should i care?

Redistricting is the process of re-drawing legislative districts (or geographic boundaries) where eligible residents vote to elect their representative. While intended as a means to ensure fairness of representation, it has commonly been used as a means for gerrymandering (or the practice of establishing unfair political advantages by manipulating voting district boundaries). Every ten years the decennial redistricting process occurs, and it just so happens that the next one is set to occur in 2021. As such, the legislatures in place at that time will play a critical role in shaping electoral boundaries for the next decade, which will likely to benefit the current political party in power at the time.


Popular books about American Politics

  1. What You Should Know About Politics…But Don’t (Jessamyn Conrad)
  2. The Populist Explosion (John Judis)
  3. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson)
  4. Fascism: A Warning (Madeleine Albright)
  5. Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do (Andrew Gelman)
  6. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America (Colin Woodard)
  7. The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (Jeffrey Toobin)
  8. The Case for Trump (Victor Davis Hanson)
  9. A warning (Anonymous)
  10. Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man (Mary L. Trump)

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  1. You may very well be spot on. My concern is that this election has the voters, mostly the left this time running away from something, and not to something. My other concern is Alfred E. Neuman could be running and, to the left, he would be a viable selection.

    It’s quite true the democratic candidate will not do the things the current president is doing, he may actually do nothing at all. This will result in anarchy, and perhaps that is the underlying motive of putting Biden in office. The reign of terror will begin. God Help us.

  2. I wish all US citizens could read your post. Many lack basic knowledge about the branches of government and the balance of power, the bill of rights and the constitution. Democracy depends on an informed electorate. All the best! Cheryl

  3. I’ve been following for a while now, and I must say, I really like how you intelligently break down political matters in the USA.

    Personally, I think Trump forcing his nominee for Supreme Court Judge is underwhelming and Amy seems to dodge a lot of questions recently.

    Also, if he eventually wins, it’s most likely he may get impeached and if he doesn’t, seeking a third term obviously won’t work. No! Not in this current age.


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