Trump vs Biden: four more years of chaos vs four years of calm, compassion

Trump and Biden

Some Indian analysts have concluded that Trump would be better for India than Biden. However, there is little evidence to support that conclusion.

On November 3, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic which has claimed more than 192,000 lives in the United States to date, Americans will be casting their votes to elect their next president. They will decide whether to give another four years to Donald Trump, the Republican candidate or to give the Oval Office to former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate.

The election is being held in an atmosphere of deep polarization, arguably not seen since the Civil War more than one century and one-half ago. Opinion polls reveal that the majority of Americans have made up their minds on whom they want as their next commander-in-chief.

For those who are not familiar with the American electoral system, it’s not the popular votes that decide the winner, but an Electoral College representing all states. In 2016, Trump won the presidency because of his superior Electoral College tally, despite losing to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million popular votes.

As with nearly all presidential elections of the past 20 years, this one will be determined by fewer than 10 key “swing” states. That is because most states are either strongly Democratic, such as California, New York and Massachusetts, or solidly Republican, such as South Dakota, Alabama and Mississippi.

READ: Indian American community rockets its way to relevance (September 4, 2020)

The swing states this year include Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. These are the states where both the Trump and Biden campaigns will be spending the bulk of their resources and time over the next eight weeks.

The most recent polls show Trump trailing Biden by a sizeable margin of 7-8 points nationally and by a slightly lower margin in most of the swing states. In large part, these polls results showing Biden ahead are attributable to Trump’s stewardship of the country during his tenure in office. And, most especially his flawed performance during this election year on the so-called bread and butter issues of health care and the economy.

The president’s handling of the coronavirus, raised serious questions within the electorate about his competence, . In order to protect the stock market, Trump went into campaign mode and told Americans that the virus was not a threat.

Even after the virus began to escalate in terms of cases and deaths in March and April, Trump constantly underplayed its magnitude, fearing that it might jeopardize the economy – the primary issue he was planning on running his re-election campaign on. Trump was absolutely wrong about the impact of the coronavirus but correct about its impact upon the economy.

The U.S. economy tanked after the outbreak of the coronavirus intensified. Approximately, 22 million people lost jobs in March and April alone. Despite Congress’ pumping in over $2 trillion to address the coronavirus’s effect, more than half of those jobs have not come back and the economic recovery remains painfully slow.

Biden has vowed to shepherd America through the health crisis, and guide the economy out of the current recession. He has some credibility in this regard as President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act was passed while Biden was Obama’s vice president. And, Biden played a leadership role in guiding America’s recovery from the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

Read more columns by Frank F. Islam

Another factor that contributes to Trump’s low poll numbers is that he has governed almost exclusively in the interests of his supporters. Since January 20, 2017, when he was sworn in as the president, he has seldom reached out to Americans who didn’t vote for him. Importantly, he never made any meaningful attempt to unify the country after a bitterly fought and acrimonious 2016 election.

This failure to bring the country’s citizens together became more pivotal this year after the killings of Black Americans by police and subsequent protests across the country which turned into riots in cities such as Portland, Oregon and Kenosha, Wisconsin. This gave Trump the opportunity to play the “law and order” card and appeal to his base which is overwhelmingly White and to try to stoke “fear” in segments of American society.

As the racial situation, has become more volatile, Trump has made no effort to bridge the racial divide or to reach out to Black Americans.  Biden by contrast has put forward an inclusive agenda but has taken an assertive position against those who engage in violence and law-breaking.

As the presidential contest enters the home stretch, following the September 7 Labor Day holiday, the question becomes which candidates’ past performance, positions and messages will play best in the swing states.

Trump’s base, which is mainly white males without college degrees, is well represented in many of the battleground states.  That is why the president has a better chance in those areas than he does nationally..

The Biden campaign understands that and is making every effort to avoid the fate of the last Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton who didn’t do well and to emulate Barack Obama who ran very well in those states. The campaign strategy includes heavily targeting traditionally Democratic-leaning minorities and immigrant groups such as the Indian American community. in those battleground states where they have a substantial presence.

The Trump campaign will be making a play for Indian American voters as well. The president has touted his close relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with whom he has appeared in two large public events in the past year, the last one being in Ahmadabad last February.

Trump may have a slight impact.  But, in my estimation, most Indian Americans are likely to reject his overtures because they want America to remain inclusive and welcoming for immigrants like them.

Indian Americans have an added incentive to vote for the Democratic ticket in November because Biden’s vice president nominee Kamala Harris is half African American and half Indian American. From an Indian American perspective, a Biden victory would give the community a seat at the highest table of power in the United States for the first time.

READ MORE: Road to the White House

Moving from the U.S. to India, would Biden or Trump be better for the future of relations between these two largest democracies in the world? Some Indian analysts, especially those on the right, have concluded that Trump would be better for India than Biden. There is little evidence to support that conclusion.

Relations with India have continuously advanced under every president since Bill Clinton. Each of his successor has taken the ties to the next level. The landmark India-U.S. civil nuclear deal was made possible by the administration of President George W. Bush. President Obama, who visited the country during his both terms, re-branded the ties as one of the most defining relationships of the 21st century.

Contrary to the policies of his past three predecessors, little of substance has been accomplished during Trump’s time in office. On the other hand, bilateral trade has regressed because of Trump’s protectionist policies and personal style.

Biden has been a friend of India throughout his Senate career and tenure as vice president. As chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he was a supporter of the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal. He is also in favor of more trade with India, with less protectionism. His position on H-1B and immigration is more aligned with India than Trump’s.

If past is prologue, India-U.S. relations would fare much better under Biden than Trump. The same would hold true for the future of Indian Americans and the United States.

Trump would bring four more years of chaos and carelessness.  Biden would bring four years of calm and compassion.

Given the consequences of 2020, in the United States, in India, and around the world, it is time for calm and compassion.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared on IndiaLegalLive.com.

(Frank Islam is an entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the Washington, DC, area.)

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