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For anyone not living in the US, it might seem easy to write away the US election as a TV show that can be turned off and ignored, but that is a huge mistake.
Like many other people, last night I (Aafiyah) made a hot drink and got myself comfortable for a long night of projections, exit polls, and results. As a Brit, this election was particularly important to me especially in light of Brexit. The current President has been a long supporter of Brexit and has promised a strong US-UK trade relation filling the gap that would be left by the lack of trade from the European Union. Biden on the other hand is a big supporter of multilateral trade agreements, and his identity as an Irish descendant has muddied the water on a clear, quick trade agreement with the UK.
To the rest of the world, the choice seems clear. On the one hand, you have an unpredictable, openly xenophobic, racist reality show host. On the other, there is a comparatively stable career politician who, while also flawed, actually meets the basic criteria of standing up for human rights and concrete plans for the future. And yet somehow the US has had a hard time choosing between the two. Rebecca Azad, a fellow Brit, highlighted this when we asked her about her thoughts about the election: ‘Waking up to the news that the U.S. election is still undecided astounded me – does the USA really want Trump to return as president? Even after his appalling handling of the coronavirus pandemic, contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement, bringing in a Muslim ban, enforced separation of migrant children from their parents at the border, and a long list of other heinous decisions, it’s scary that the people still consider him to be worthy President for another term.”
Across many countries, the US election has been the main topic of conversation for months now. The election impacts more than the continental US and that the consequences of the results will be felt across the world. From the UK, Bashirat Oladele states ‘America unfortunately, controls the world now and it’s insensitive to be told to stay out of it. It’s a reflection of American exceptionalism and the brainwashing of Americans in schools when they don’t know about international relations, geopolitics. When America catches a cold, the whole world sneezes.’
As an Indian, (Hannah) I find myself rather invested in the American election as well. My Instagram feed is flooded with (mostly celebrity) accounts urging me to vote Biden-Harris, while the comment sections of these posts angrily sling virtual mud against whoever challenges Trump’s place as the most powerful man in the world. I have had the opportunity to amusedly disparage the electoral college system followed in the US, coming from a country where the majority vote ushered in eight years of rising intolerance and hate. For India, four more years of Trump could mean more difficulty with visas, more hoops to jump through if we wanted to immigrate, more rallies where he proclaims his support for ‘the Hindus’. For me personally, it would mean four more years of another unpredictable, authoritarian world leader getting to keep making decisions. Like Modi, like Bolsonaro. Not a very cheery prospect.
There’s a heightened level of anxiety surrounding this election. Naturally, no matter what side of the political side you fall on in the US, there is a lot at stakes for the entire world. This was touched upon by our own Editor-in-Chief Federica Bocco, from Italy – “It’s nerve-wracking. The wait, the not knowing. In 2016, we stayed up all night, from before the polls closed, waiting for any clues or hints at the final outcome. This time around, I’m glad to see more of my friends all over the world are tuning in and holding their breath along with us.
This feeling of comradeship around the world has been one of the most comforting things throughout this whole period and the one thing that has been a constant is the emotional impact of the voting process. With more and more people tuning in and understanding the implications of this election, it means that the emotional burden is reduced. Having worked for and with Americans my entire career, I have a better understanding of what’s going on than most of my peers in this part of the world, and it’s been heartwarming to see many of them asking me questions all night long about what differences there are between the states and the electoral seats, etc. The system is incredibly complex, but I’m happy to see more and more people are trying to understand it because they realize this is going to affect the entire world, not just the USA.”
For recent Indian graduate Mukundan, a Trump victory would mean more than four more years of prime Daily Show content. “A lot of international students are carefully watching the election to decide whether they want to study in the USA or not.”
From issues such as climate change to xenophobia, Donald Trump’s presidency has been marred in controversy and condemnation. As the only state to pull out of the peace accord, the US made its stance on the climate crisis clear. Under Biden, this is likely to change. An early exit poll by CNN highlighted that for 82% of voters, climate change was a key issue, this was especially relevant for Democratic voters. A Biden presidency could ensure that one of the biggest countries in the world will take climate change seriously which would have the biggest impact on many Indigenous populations across the US.
In a global pandemic, Donald Trump did what he did best – he created division. Referring to the COVID-19 virus the ‘China’ or ‘Wuhan’ virus, he created a divide between the Chinese American population and the rest. He reduced this community to a stereotype leading to xenophobic attacks across the state. Even now, the pandemic is still moving strong across the world, he refuses to take accountability for the deaths he has caused, instead choosing to scapegoat a community to push the blame and make himself feel better. A presidency under Trump will only perpetuate this and there will be no end to the scapegoating until there are no communities but the white community left.
Let’s remember what Bradley Whitford tweeted, “Whatever happens, elections are commas, not periods. The work continues. We don’t just get a democracy, we have to make it. Every day.” Ultimately, whatever happens, this US election will be a testament to how the global political landscape is going to look like in the near future, and the work we all have cut out for us for the next four years and more.
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