The Corona pandemic has affected the lives, social relationships and, most importantly, economic conditions of billions of people residing in more than 200 countries of the world. Significantly, it has also affected politics and political processes in democratic countries, where periodic elections are crucial part of the system of governance.
It is to underline that the most powerful, resilient and the richest democracy in the world, the United States of America, has also been affected severely by this pandemic in many ways, including the disruption in the political processes.
Every fourth year, Americans vote for a new President. Occasionally, they re-elect an incumbent for another term of four years. The big question today is whether the US presidential election will be held smoothly and whether the incumbent President, Donald Trump, would be re-elected.
The political processes in the run-up to the presidential election on 3rd November 2020 are anything but smooth. The COVID19 related lockdowns, subsequent un-lockdowns, persistent fear of infections in the populace, difficulty in holding rallies and mass meetings have all affected the holding of primary elections and caucus meetings of the American political parties that are essential part of nominating a candidate for the Presidency.
The national conventions of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party to finally select a nominee are huge pomp and show ceremonies. While the Republican Party has little to lose, as President Donald Trump will obviously be the candidate, yet the ceremony gives an occasion to make campaign speeches watched by millions of American voters as well people around the world. The Democratic National Convention to formalize the presidential nomination of Joe Biden, the former Vice President, has just got over; it was held in a virtual setting. Thousands of delegates would have assembled at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but missed the event that takes place once in four years. Senator Joe Biden was nominated as the party’s candidate for Presidency and Senator Kamala Harris as the party’s Vice Presidential nominee.
The US is the worst affected country in the world due to COVID19. The handling of the pandemic by the government; followed by polarization of the American society has offended many American citizens. Importantly, unemployment rate in the country is very high and America’s economic growth rate has turned negative. The health infrastructure of the country was found to be inadequate during the coronavirus crisis. It also showed the administration in poor light when expert advice on fighting the virus was dismissed by senior government functionaries. Racism has spread to every nook and corner of the country. This has added to the current US administration’s worries.
The immigration policy, environmental concerns, handling of the economy and the pandemic have all come under intense scrutiny by the American opposition. Sen. Joe Biden is currently leading in the opinion polls by four percentage points.
Every fourth year at the time of the Presidential election in the US, Indians debate about who would be a better President for India. This is natural, but a close scrutiny of India’s relations with Democratic and Republican administrations reveal that there are no ideological rigidities in the positions of the two main US political parties as far as India is concerned.
Senator Kamala Harris has become the first Indian-origin person ever to be nominated as the running mate of a Presidential candidate. This naturally has generated lot of interest in India in the forthcoming US Presidential elections.
There has been a steady rise in bipartisan support in the United States for the country’s policy of maintaining a robust strategic partnership with India. If a change of guard does happen in January 2021 at the White House, it would not materially change the fundamental contours of Indo-US relations.
In the current electoral debate in the US, Donald Trump and Joe Biden are both trying to project themselves to be tougher on China than the other. Both candidates have repeatedly mentioned how they would further advance America’s cooperation with a vibrant India to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Script: Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra, VC & Rector, JNU