• Reading Level 5
Science | History | Geography | PSHE

Threats and anger as US election day looms

Should the world be ready for a contested US election? Tomorrow, the most powerful nation on Earth will vote for its next president – but both candidates may end up claiming they have won. “Across the United States, political signs have been set ablaze, cars have been vandalised and neighbourhood scuffles and shouting matches have proliferated in the waning days of the most toxic election season in more than half a century.” The venerable American newspaper, The Washington Post, was in little doubt yesterday. As election day looms, to express a political opinion has become tantamount, for many, to a declaration of war. It is the most important election in living memory. Ninety-two million people have already voted by mail and in person. The turnout is expected to be the highest in over a century. The result will have enormous implications for the future of democracy around the world. And the choice is stark: a change of direction with Joe Biden. Or four more years of Donald Trump. Who will win? Nobody can say. In the US, each state sends delegates to an Electoral College, where they promise to vote faithfully for the presidential candidate with the most votes in their state. Their vote is approved by Congress and the new president is sworn in on 20 January 2021. In most cases, this system reflects the popular vote – but not always. Four years ago, Trump received almost 2.9 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton – and still won the Electoral College. In normal times, as soon as it is clear who has won, the loser makes a concession speech and the victor prepares for government. But these are not normal times. Historian Timothy Garton Ash says we must expect a contested election. In 1800, the Electoral College failed to choose a president, with supporters of Thomas Jefferson threatening violence if their man didn’t win. In 1876, the process was thrown into disarray when four states sent two sets of delegates to the Electoral College. In 2000, it took five weeks and a ruling by the Supreme Court to decide the election. Democratic candidate Al Gore narrowly won the popular vote, but a handful of recounts in Florida dragged on into December. When he finally conceded, he called for the country to unite behind the Republican candidate George Bush. Ash says it is difficult to imagine Trump accepting defeat. The political atmosphere is febrile, each side has “its own facts,” and Trump has already declared that the election will be be the “most corrupt” in American History. In 2000, the dispute was over hanging chads. This time, mail-in ballots may decide the result. Trump says postal voting is open to fraud and has encouraged his supporters to vote in person. On Tuesday night, attention will turn to the swing states both sides need to win. If Bidens wins Florida, analysts predict Trump will lose the White House. But if he holds on, the result could come down to postal votes. Garton Ash warns this will create a confusing “blue shift,” where Trump takes an early lead and declares victory, but Biden closes the gap as mail-in ballots are counted. With claims of interference and fraud, a contested election could be fought on social media, in the courts and on the streets. In the worst-case scenario, both men and their supporters could turn up on 20 January 2021 to claim the presidency. Should we be ready for a contested US election? Stick or twist Some say no, a disputed outcome is very unlikely. Even if the vote is close, there will be overwhelming pressure to defend the democratic process and to bring the election to a peaceful resolution. Others say yes, we should be prepared for the worst. If Biden declares victory but Trump stays in the White House, the US will enter uncharted and dangerous territory, with the future of democracy at stake. KeywordsJoe Biden - The president of the USA, elected in 2020.

Continue Reading

The Day is an independent, online, subscription-based news publication for schools, focusing on the big global issues beneath the headlines. Our dedicated newsroom writes news, features, polls, quizzes, translations… activities to bring the wider world into the classroom. Through the news we help children and teachers develop the thinking, speaking and writing skills to build a better world. Our stories are a proven cross-curricular resource published at five different reading levels for ages 5 to 19. The Day has a loyal and growing membership in over 70 countries and its effectiveness is supported by case studies and teacher endorsements.

Start your free trial Already have an account? Log in / register