With the final presidential debate under the nation’s belt, the weight of this election is being felt now more than ever throughout the country. The New York Times reported that “More than 59 million ballots have already been cast in the 2020 election, surpassing the previous early turnout record set in 2016. A total of 87 million absentee ballots have been requested or sent to voters in 49 states and the District of Columbia.”
The past few weeks alone have demonstrated how turbulent this election cycle has been, with two debates and an official COVID-19 diagnosis for President Donald Trump. Miguel Rivera, political science professor at John Brown University, said, “This is one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime. We have an absolutely stark contrast between the two candidates, and the country is divided politically, along race, along economic issues, along healthcare. I think the stark difference between candidates is reflective of that.”
The two presidential debates prominently exhibited this stark difference. The first, which has been considered an utter disaster by many viewers, saw interruptions and harsh dialogue from both candidates. Rivera said, “I thought that the first debate was just awful. I thought that the president was way over the top. His overall demeanor was unpresidential and was far too aggressive.”
Many have said the same about Former Vice President Joe Biden’s performance, with Vanity Fair reporter and staunch Biden supporter Nick Bilton commenting, “I couldn’t watch Joe Biden flub or stumble over his words without taking enough Valium to put a small horse to sleep—which I didn’t have—so I decided to skip the debate.” While most agree that the second debate, which took place on Oct. 29, was more put together, many are still uneasy about the candidates.
In regard to policy, Trump has kept the same platform as when he ran the first time, mainly focusing on increasing jobs and improving the economy, including a pledge to add 10 million jobs in 10 months and to deliver an income tax cut. Biden, on the other hand, has adopted policies that have become more popular recently within the Democratic party, including a climate deal that will see a $2 trillion investment in green energy and an expansion of the Affordable Care Act.
Rivera noted, “It’s going to be very interesting watching the returns on Nov. 3 because I think there’s a significant chance that, unless Biden takes a commanding lead in the electoral college, we won’t know the results for a few days, and that’s due to the absentee ballots that are being sent. This is going to be an election night unlike any other.”
The time between Nov. 3 and Jan. 20 is expected to be a tumultuous one. With the potentially long wait from counting the record numbers of mail-in ballots and with the rumors that President Trump will not leave office peacefully, many have begun delving into the complicated process of constitutional “what ifs” in regard to the few months after the election. “There are lots of complicated scenarios if no candidate gets the required majority in the Electoral College in December, but, nonetheless, Trump’s and Pence’s terms end at noon on January 20th.” Rivera continues, “If no candidate gets 270 or more Electoral votes and if the House hasn’t selected a president, with each state delegation getting one vote, the Succession Act takes over, and the Speaker of the House becomes acting President until the House selects a president.”
In this election, a large number of JBU students will be voting for the first time. Cole Webb, a sophomore political science major, said, “This has been the first election season that a lot of our generation has followed and the first one that many, including myself, will be able to vote in. While it seems like every other day some catastrophic political news or scandal drops, I think we can be comforted in the fact that our generation is paying attention and already beginning to push for change.”
Karyna Spence, a senior intercultural studies major, echoed Webb’s statement, saying, “The issues of COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and climate change make this election pivotal for the country. I believe, if we want to see change happen in all levels of government, then we must practice our civic duty and vote. Our voice is our vote.”