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Right v/s Left

The United States of America faces its most exciting, decisive and probably divisive election as it gears up to elect its 46th President on November 3rd. The world’s most powerful country will choose been incumbent Republican President Donald John Trump and Democratic nominee and Barack Obama’s Vice President Joseph Robinette Biden. Let’s dive in.

How does the political system in the USA work?

  • The basic system of politics is similar yet different to ours. It has a two-party system, namely the Conservative ‘Republicans’ and the Liberal ‘Democrats.’ The executive is run by the President and his Cabinet, while the legislature is an independent entity.

  • The legislature is split into two chambers, the Senate (upper house) and the House of Representatives (lower house). They are similar in function and hierarchy to India’s Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha respectively. The term for members in the Senate is six years while, in the House of Representatives, it’s two years.

  • The judiciary is headed by the Supreme Court. The key differences are that the upper house wields more power, the powers between the executive and legislature are clearly separated and the Supreme Court has a much wider scope of authority.

Fun Fact: The colours of the political parties in the USA are not their official hues. For the ease of viewers and the advent of colour television, a map was devised with red and blue colours for Republicans and Democrats respectively. Today, the scheme continues and states are often referred to as ‘blue’ or ‘red’ states to identify the political party in power.

Meet the Presidential candidates

  • President Donald Trump: Republican Candidate The incumbent president entered politics 5 years ago and he’s been President for 4. His lack of diplomacy and political diktats have earned him notoriety. While his statements may come across as animated and stigmatising, he has kept the election promises he made in 2016. His 2016 campaign had four major points -- to create more jobs, to improve international relations, to introduce tax reforms and to build a wall between the US and Mexico. As President, however, his mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic has faced much criticism. This includes Trump’s insistence on flouting social distancing norms and reluctance to mandating masks despite contacting the virus himself. Under his leadership, the USA has pulled out of the Paris Climate accord; he is an avowed sceptic when it comes to climate change. He has promised USA will withdraw from WHO by 6th July, 2021, which could have devastating effects on the international body. His zero-tolerance immigration policies have separated children from their parents.

  • Former Vice-President Joe Biden: Democratic Candidate He has been re-elected in the senate six times and has spent most of his life in politics. As VP from 2008-2016, he oversaw infrastructure spending to counteract the 2009 recession. He helped pass a Tax Relief Act in 2010 by gathering support from the Republicans. He has been awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which honours those who have made extraordinary contributions to national and international security, world peace and public endeavours. Biden’s candour and to-the-point approach has been widely appreciated. When he was VP, a different pandemic -- H1N1 or Swine Flu – swept through the USA. An early vaccine and lower mortality rate helped the administration face the crisis. Even the WHO acknowledges that the USA got ‘lucky.’

Fun Fact: The 46th US President will be the oldest ever take oath in the USA; Trump will be 74 while Biden will be 78!

Vice Presidential nominees

This year’s nominees have more significance than usual. Mike Richard Pence and Kamala Devi Harris are the “right-hands” to Trump and Biden respectively. The VP’s role will be important due to the age of the President. Pence has served six terms in the House of Representatives. Harris has served as attorney general for California and has been part of the Senate since 2017.

Fun Fact: Kamala Harris’s mother was Indian; her aunt lives in Chennai.

How does voting take place in the US?

  • The President is not directly elected. An electoral college forms every four years with the sole purpose of electing the next President. The members are chosen by the state based on the votes that have been cast by the citizens or the ‘popular vote.’

  • This essentially means that the people vote for the candidate their state will support. The 538-member college, in which the states are represented disproportionately, then votes for t