VPR Thoughts Before the 2020 Election



As Tuesday draws near, the Vanderbilt Political Review wants to share our thoughts, opinions, and concerns regarding the upcoming election. Below are brief responses from our writers that encapsulate the most pressing issues on our minds.

Democracy at Risk

This election will undoubtedly be the most consequential our generation has ever seen. An unforgiving pandemic continues to grip the world, the two-party system has yielded greater division than ever before in recent memory, and the presidential candidates promote vastly different visions of our country’s future. Although these divergent platforms carry massive importance for our country, the most salient element of this election will be how democracy itself may suffer.

This should come as no surprise, as democracy in the United States has been at risk for quite some time. As manifested by Congress’ nearly party-line decisions on Trump’s impeachment and Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, the greatest incentive for each party has become the obstruction of the other. The Eurasia Group, the world’s leading political risk consultancy, ranks the U.S. election as the top global risk precisely for this reason. No matter who loses– even if it’s Biden– each candidate has a strong incentive to contest the result and even reject a court decision. With polarization and dissatisfaction in democracy on the rise, the necessity to keep faith in our centuries-old institutions is needed now more than ever.

– Eric Asen, Editor-in-Chief

An Easy Road Ahead for Biden

President Trump squeaked out a win in 2016 against one of the most unpopular nominees of all-time (who also failed to campaign in some of the most important states). Trump’s approval rating has been deeply underwater for the vast majority of his term, and Biden’s favorability numbers are surprisingly good. This election is not nearly as complicated as the last one; the incumbent is deeply unpopular, so he is being replaced by the alternative. The polling last cycle was close, and Trump finished with the momentum. Neither of those are true this time. I consider Biden to be the strong favorite.

– Jacob Hale, Senior Editor

No Clear Winner on Election Night

Without focusing on the actual result of the election, I want to look at what to expect on the week of November 2nd, as it seems likely that we won’t see a clear winner on election night. For the states whose ballots haven’t been fully counted, I’m expecting to see a lot of coverage on how it’s being done and when it’s likely to finish. Some races might be too close to call that we could also see a recount, extending this election cycle that already feels like it’s been going on forever. Social media and the 24-hour news cycle is going to be intense, divisive, and we are likely to see a bunch of misinformation spread rapidly. Amidst all the likely chaos, my view is that we should all remain calm, level-headed, trust the sources we’ve trusted for a long time, and just wait for the final result.

– Skanda Gulibhi, Online Director

Hold Our Country Accountable 

The United States is plagued by political division. Four years of vitriol and the rampant spread of misinformation has elevated American partisanship to frightening and potentially calamitous levels. The civility and integrity that has long been expected of elected officials is achingly scarce in the country, and Americans have suffered because of it. Policy implications aside, Tuesday’s election offers Americans a chance to hold the office of the President, and the office of every elected official, to a higher moral standard. Vote!

– Gray Pearson, Contributor

Your Privilege to Vote Should Demand Justice

This election will have a profound impact for generations to come. As a nation, we can decide to cement Trump’s objectively racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, science-denying and anti-LGBTQ policies, or we can decide to turn the page on this period, a period that, if not already, will surely be studied as one of the darkest in American history. Healthcare, reproductive rights, environmental sustainability, the right to love who you love, and voting rights are among the few things that are on the line. Any voting-eligible American who does not vote fails to acknowledge the profound privilege that they attain yet chose to not use towards protecting their fellow American. After all, people have literally risked their lives to cement this sacred right to vote.

Our generation is made up of many activists. Some of us marched in the streets to protest racial inequality and injustice. Some of us marched to demand gun control. Some of us marched to protect undocumented immigrants’ rights to seek safety. Some of us marched to advocate for gender equality. Unfortunately however, it’s often the younger generation who less frequently exercises their right to vote. So, let’s decide to use our vote as a megaphone for demanding justice, demanding civility, and, most importantly, for preserving democracy.

– Nikki Aminmadani, Contributor

A Flawed Presidential Referendum

Regardless of the outcome, I don’t believe that this election will reflect how most Americans feel about President Trump. Between issues with handling the increase in mail-in ballots, USPS delays, and the pandemic, there are many factors that will influence whether people turn out and, if they do, whether their voice is heard. I think that the popular vote will show a level of support for the President that is higher than accurate, not because polls are wildly incorrect but because these factors may disproportionately affect Democrats. Thus, COVID-19, which has severely affected the President’s polling numbers, may actually end up assuring his reelection.

– Caleb Boyer, Contributor

A Likely Biden Win

The 2020 Presidential Election has been one of the most stable Presidential races in recent years. At this juncture, it is very unlikely that President Trump could stage a comeback strong enough to reclaim the White House. Contextualizing this race is very difficult because while 2016 gives us an indication of Trump’s capabilities, we have yet to see a matchup of this dynamic in a very long time. The country is grappling with a public health crisis that has triggered an economic downturn. The most recent comparison to this dynamic would be the 2008 election amidst the recession. However, President George W. Bush was not up for re-election. Yet, Senator McCain’s loss to President Barack Obama indicated an unfavorable environment for the incumbent party. Trump’s disapproval rating on COVID-19 indicates another unfavorable environment for the incumbent party. Biden has built where Secretary Clinton had weaknesses in 2016. Biden has polled much more favorably amongst the white working-class voters who brought Trump the presidency in 2016 than Clinton. These factors indicate a strong probability of a Biden presidency in 2020.

– Jansen Hammock, Contributor

Another Battle Between the Lesser of Two Evils

There is no doubt in my mind that this election will go down as one of the most important in history. Two starkly different candidates fight for power and fight to lead our country in a direction that is appealing to them. President Trump faces a tough re-election bid following his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and is trying to rally his base based on how strong the economy was before the pandemic ravaged our country. Vice President Biden is running a more progressive campaign on the premise of climate reform, increasing taxes, and expanding the Affordable Care Act.

When combining the importance of this election and how many people have already voted early, this election looks like it will put up record numbers in terms of voter turnout. It’s a good sign for our democracy. However, many people are voting for the lesser of two evils, arguing that neither candidate is ideal, but the one who is less bad should be elected. We need a candidate who won’t care about right or left but cares about forward: progressing our country in a non-polarizing manner.

– Nikhil Polepalli, Contributor

A Trump Victory is More Likely Than You Think

Just as in 2016, I see a Trump victory as far more likely than the media indicates. Regardless of the motives and actors behind it, I feel that voter suppression will be huge this election, and this will serve in the end to exclude nontraditional voting demographics, such as younger individuals and certain minority groups This may ultimately help Trump greatly in the election. On a non-institutional level, the increasing prevalence of “poll watchers” will further diminish the vote of traditionally Democratic demographics, who may find themselves subject to intimidation come Election Day.

I also feel that Arizona’s lean towards Biden is being far overstated, as it went solidly in favor of Trump in 2016. This state also has some of the most egregious instances of voter suppression. Although the legitimacy of this election may easily come into question for a variety of reasons, the Electoral College producing a favorable outcome for Trump definitely seems like a possible outcome. I’d further like to note that the (well-substantiated, in my opinion) belief that Biden seeks to curb fracking will hurt Biden particularly in Pennsylvania and open the door for a Trump resurgence there.

– Anonymous Contributor

A Moral Dilemma

I believe that this election specifically exposes an important dilemma that is at the heart of political issues – Should the law be conflated with morality? It is doubtful that one would suggest that the law is not proximate to some sort of general moral unanimity, however, it is interesting to watch recent political movements championing less ambiguity in our moral doctrine. More specifically, we see that the U.S. Left tends to concentrate on the social (or, group) good, while U.S. Right focuses their attention towards the individual good.

These values can then be reflected in posed laws. A simple example: currently, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is widely disputed by American political parties. Democrats advocate for the ACA, which brought healthcare to millions of people and, without a doubt, is making lives better. On the other hand, Republicans object to the ACA because it caused millions to lose their current healthcare plans. The deliberation here is not whether Americans should have access to healthcare, but whether or not the state should implement a plan at the expense of individual freedom. The ACA certainly did not burden the ability to hold a healthcare insurance plan, however, it did take away the right for many individuals to choose the healthcare plan they most prefer. Again, the dilemma is found whether we focus political morality on the individual, or the group.

– Brandon Wolk, Contributor