Whichever Candidate finds the most Middle Ground will Win the US Election - Joel Hetherington

On 3rd November the United States of America will head to the polls to elect its next President. Incumbent President Trump will be hoping for a repeat of 2016 when he trailed in the polls for most of the campaign before the mobilisation of the ‘silent majority’ helped him secure 306 electoral votes. President Trump is currently at 42.42% trailing Biden who is on 51.79% (Telegraph).

This is national polling so the Trump campaign will not be too concerned as they know they can perform well in the electoral college, securing over 270 seats and win the White House and lose the popular vote as they did in 2016. Many of the Rust Belt states that helped secure the election for Trump in 2016, according to the polls, are set to turn blue. In order for Trump to win on election night he will have to win states like Florida, currently predicted as too close to call but the feeling on the ground is Republicans have a strong chance of winning.

The Trump campaign is also targeting Pennsylvania, a State worth 20 electoral votes but currently predicted to go to Biden. However, this state is very competitive following the confusion around Biden’s fracking policy; an industry that Pennsylvania relies on.

Both campaigns are pouring funds into swing states with Trump holding rallies that have attracted thousands and Biden running aggressive advertisement campaigns. If the President has a late surge in the polls again this election will be exciting and likely very close. So, what are the key points that may decide this election?

One issue that will affect the election will be the President’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). In securing a long-standing conservative majority and five catholic Justices (pending Barrett’s acceptance), Trump has secured SCOTUS support on issues such as abortion and the Second Amendment.

The late Justice Ginsburg, while requesting that her replacement be selected post-election, said in 2016 that ‘a President is elected for four years not three’. Justice Ginsburg’s request for a postponement on nominations for the SCOTUS was not accepted by Trump and his decision was justified by Ginsburg herself because if President Obama could do it, as he did, in the final year of his term then there is nothing stopping Trump.

On this occasion Ginsburg’s motives for such a request were political in order to prevent a conservative nominee.

As one would expect, Biden did not agree with this and claimed that the election should decide the next Justice. While unlikely to be a deal-breaker for most Americans, there will be some who see Trump’s nominee as a step too far to the right and will think twice before giving him the chance to influence The SCOTUS for a further four years should the opportunity arise.

What will be causing concern for voters, however, is Biden’s reluctance to answer any questions on his SCOTUS plans. It is suspected Biden intends to overturn the present composition by appointing left leaning justices to the SCOTUS in order to ‘balance’ the views of the constitution on it. Many see this as an unacceptable threat to the justice system. In 1869 Congress set the number at nine where it has remained ever since.

To pack the Supreme Court would be hugely controversial and with Biden refusing to comment on his plans until ‘after the election’, many Americans will see this as insulting and too radical.

Trump’s response to COVID-19 will likely be another factor in people’s decision. President Trump disbanded the White House Pandemic Response Team in May 2018. This significantly limited his options in response to the outbreak leaving some to wonder whether action, on a domestic level, was too slow. However, he was proactive in closing the borders ahead of other nations, first China and then Europe; a move Biden vocally opposed. These restrictions limited the number of travellers entering the US. But, with the lack of hard evidence and increasing concern with domestic figures it is not yet possible to assess how effective these steps were.

The White House Task Force, overseen by Vice President Pence, has been working hard not just to contain the virus and flatten the curve but lead the pharmaceutical industry in developing therapeutics and eventually a vaccine.

Trump has come under fire for being too lackadaisical regarding the virus, this may, or may not, be true to some extent. However, he has mobilised the medical industry and hasn’t, as some may suggest, allowed it to run its own course. Trump has recognised that for the good of the economy and all the social implications that a continued lockdown would present, the country should re-open and commence its recovery.

Biden has been inconsistent on the virus. He publicly disagreed with Trump over the closing of borders and is keen for lockdown to continue. Many are suspicious that this is a tactic to stall the economy further in order to affect the numbers ahead of election day. Democrat run Chicago has delayed lifting restrictions; there are many more across the nation. The question whether it is simply politics or science behind this decision is yet to be answered.

The handling of the virus has been divisive in the US and will be a factor in the electorate’s decision.

Division in the US is also seen vividly in the riots and protests that have swept across the nation. President Trump has openly condemned racism and white supremacy at least twenty times despite claims in the media otherwise and continues to be seen by the left as a racist. This issue was highlighted at the Presidential debate on Tuesday 29th September for which Trump has come under intense media scrutiny. He was asked to openly condemn white supremacists. He didn’t explicitly say ‘I condemn white supremacists’ but, in his defence, he was given little or no opportunity to explain his intentions and was interrupted by both the moderator and his opponent. Trump’s intentions were interpreted wrongly. He was asked to tell community defence groups, or as some call them militias, to stand down. However, they say they have little or no choice to do so when the Governor of the state supports police defunding and a community needs protection.

Despite the condemnation of white supremacists since the debate NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked Trump again to condemn with supremacy at a Town Hall event. Not surprisingly, Trump gave the same answer he has done for the past four years of his presidency that he fully condemns white supremacy. Republicans and many Democrats have been disappointed by the Democrats reluctance to support law enforcement officers. The Police federations feel the same way with every endorsement so far in favour of Trump including the Florida Police Chiefs Association who endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time in it’s history.

The riots have cost people their jobs, businesses, homes and lives. Racism has been a catalyst and also a ‘Trojan Horse’ for many other factors. Socialism, attacks on culture and police defunding have been just as prominent in the motives of rioters and protesters. Biden’s reluctance to condemn these protests is being seen as dangerous for America.

Biden has also come under media scrutiny for calling black Trump voters non-black; this is dangerous, divisive and degrading to the healthy number of African American Trump voters. These racially profiling comments by Biden have done him no favours amongst the African American vote. According to CNN, Biden’s support amongst African American’s is lower than Clinton’s in 2016. The riots and division in the US will have a large impact on the election.

For most Americans the issue that I predict may be the ‘deal-breaker’ and which may sound rather obvious is whether one is conservative or liberal and how far one is willing to stretch on these views. The Trump administration is one of the most conservative in history. The President has strong pro-life and second amendment views as well as an anti-immigration stance and an incredibly conservative outlook on the environment. For most Americans, these views alone will decide how they vote. However, for ‘mild’ conservatives who support Trump on the economy but are sceptical of his very conservative views, voting for a President who has been influential in one of the most divided times in American history may be a step too far.

On the other hand, those who normally vote Democrat may be discouraged by the large group on the far left of the Party that Biden is relying upon. The far left’s demands to defund the police and wage war on American culture will cause alarm for some of the more traditional Democrats who have wrestled with these dilemmas will vote for Trump. Voters will find themselves asking questions on abortion, the second amendment, immigration, religious freedom, patriotism and a whole host of other moral dilemmas when deciding who to support. The gravity of moral beliefs means these decisions will not be taken lightly. Compromise will be reluctant yet a possibility as the divide is so great and both candidates stand so far apart.

The issue of conservatism vs liberalism in this election encompasses so many factors that it will be vital. ‘Republicans for Biden’ and the ‘WalkAway Movement’ show that there is discontent on both sides of this election and much like our election in 2019 where the Brexit debate amongst other issues caused the Red Wall, Labour’s former stronghold in the North and Midlands, to turn Conservative, crossing party lines is a reality in the US as well.

The economy is always a huge part of any election. Had Covid-19 not occurred the economy would have more than likely continued to grow and would have been a central campaign tool in the President’s camp. Trump has prided himself on an inclusive economy were all have been able to prosper regardless of social standing and had the pre-COVID forecast materialised he would have had the one of the strongest economies entering a US election.

Unemployment amongst African Americans as of September last year was at its lowest since records began at 5.5%. Unemployment during the height of the pandemic reached 15%, it is now less than 8%, a record recovery. Jobs is central in any American election and will be prominent this year. Trump has significantly boosted the job market so far. He took over from an administration that left a situation of rising unemployment and left Trump with an economy in need of rebuilding. His strong economic performance will stand him in good stead amongst working class states and may clinch some much-needed swing votes in states like Pennsylvania. Trump will also be looking forward to the release of the third quarter GDP figures just prior to election day which are forecasted to be very good.

Biden’s economic plan has been widely supported by the media and some companies alike in the US including Goldman Sachs.

Biden has promised a boost in the automotive industry and a 10% tax credit to firms that commit to rebuilding or strengthening domestic manufacturing. While Biden himself may prefer a more open market approach, the wing of the party that he is reliant upon have strong socialist tendencies and, if elected, would be looking at forcing his hand in shaping the economic future. The question that will be answered in the months and years ahead, if elected, will Biden be allowed to control the Treasury? Or will Sanders and the other socialist Democrats have a firm grip on the Biden administration and take it down another road?

The vast majority of people will have decided already which way they will vote in this election. For a strong or even a mild conservative who values the rights given in the constitution such as the Second Amendment there is really only one option. For someone more liberal on social and economic issues the choice is equally clear.

However, there is a group, possibly 10-15% of the electorate who may yet not have made their mind up. Crossing party lines, as we know from our own election is something people do; the question is where and how many? Trump has to reclaim the likes of North Carolina and Florida whereas Biden has to appeal to those who see Trump as too extreme.

The election will likely be close, determined by a few swing states and decided on many factors.

The Trump campaign feels they have gained significant momentum since the President’s recovery from COVID, through rallies, internal polling and the general enthusiasm amongst Republicans in states who are reporting encouraging figures from canvassing and local campaigning. The exposure of Hunter Biden’s dealings with Chinese and Ukrainian officials has also been a boost to the Trump Campaign with Joe Biden appearing very flustered and calling a ‘lid’ on his campaign as pressure mounts for answers on his son. The Biden campaign team are aware of this surge in support in swing states that they were previously confident of winning like Arizona and Pennsylvania were Trump is making gains.

They are also concerned that the seemingly good polls released by CNN and other corporations may cause activists to become complacent, leading to an email to supporters urging them to continue working and that the election was closer than the polls suggested.

What is clear however, is that the President and Biden have to find a way to appeal to the middle ground as this 15% of voters will decide this election and the path America takes not just for the next four years, but for many more years ahead.

Joel Hetherington, member of Ellesmere Port and Neston Conservatives