US Elections: The Biggest Challenges Awaiting The Next Administration
Often dubbed the most important election in US history, the 2020 presidential election is one step away from unfolding. Whoever comes out on top will have to face a great deal of challenges such as: worsening inequality, the unstoppable rise of China to become the World’s new superpower, allies’ loss of trust in the US and the ticking time bomb of climate change, all of this in an increasingly divided country.
In 2019, the Census Bureau reported that income inequality in the United States was at a 50-year high, with a Gini index (of 0.485) at record levels since the start of the index. With the Covid-19 pandemic not affecting every American in the same way, inequality in the country is a crucial problem now more than ever. A new relief bill is urgently needed by millions of Americans as the situation worsens for them. The effects of the pandemic have placed a larger burden on the losers of our globalized economy, whose marginalization from society is growing with each passing day. People that are worse off have more chances to catch the virus and die from its complications, as they have a worse access to healthcare than other Americans do. This is why during the presidential debates healthcare (considered a basic human right in many developed countries) has been such a polarizing issue.
Polarization is a growing trend everywhere in the World but more so in the United States, where the word “United” is being challenged at every political discussion or rally. As we have seen with the Covid-19 relief bill talks, decisions that will affect every American are being distorted into political matters. More Americans are losing trust in politicians, as they feel that the gap between Washington and the average citizen is widening and doesn’t show any sign of slowing. Adding to this, during this crisis the so-called red and blue states adopted different strategies that were criticized by both candidates and labeled as purely political decisions. Maybe it is time to start thinking that problems can be solved with a bipartisan effort, with everyone’s interest in mind, rather than always thinking in terms of “Democrats vs. Republicans”. The current racial unrest is the latest sign of the lack of empathy and dialogue in a country once the symbol of equality, freedom and opportunity. This whole situation raises a very disturbing but legitimate question: Is the American Dream over?
A new World superpower is rising at an astonishing pace: China. The IMF predicts that the country where the virus first emerged will be the only major economy to grow this year, as it successfully contained the outbreak - or at least claims it. The US-China relations have been a hot topic during the American presidential election, as both Trump and Biden look to convince voters that they are the best candidate on the issue. Both have very different strategies but share the same goal: coping with China’s inevitable rise in the best way possible for the United States. On the one hand, President Trump’s strategy consists in a direct face-off with China, by placing sanctions on Chinese officials and confronting Xi in a way that can often feel too solitary and confused. On the other hand, Biden has repeatedly said he will work with American allies to pressure China into respecting the international agreements it has signed. Critics of Biden see him as “too soft” on the Chinese issue and think the former Vice President should adopt a strategy similar to President Trump’s with a country that has been accused of human rights abuses, among others.
It is important for the US to work with (and not against) China to build a cleaner, fairer and more peaceful world for tomorrow. But it is even more important to rebuild the relations with its historical allies, which have been tarnished recently. Before his inauguration, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and threatened to withdraw support. Traditional allies have started to think of a world where they depend less on the United States, as the latter falls into protectionism. Its new (and less traditional, to say the least) foreign policy is the result of decades of terrible decision making and a growing global sentiment that the “World’s policeman” is sometimes a bully. The best example of it might be the Iraq War, where the way the Americans handled post-invasion Iraq was widely condemned. Such events lead to an increasing narrative that the US should intervene less and listen more closely to its allies (France was against the Iraq War). In the increasingly uncertain world where we live in, America should seriously think twice before leaning towards protectionism rather than opening up to a globalized world where it is stronger and presents a unified view with its longtime allies.
Finally, one of the biggest challenges that the US (and the World) will face in the upcoming years is climate change. On this topic, the two presidential candidates could not have more diverging views. President Trump has fueled climate-skeptical narratives by calling climate change a “hoax” and seizing every opportunity to improve economic growth (especially in so-called red states) at the expense of the environment, although alternative solutions exist. On the contrary, former Vice President Joe Biden says climate change is a priority and has pledged to reenter the Paris Climate Agreement if he is elected. It is true that Trump’s vision has been widely criticized, but Biden’s strategy for climate change also comes with its criticism. Some say that the targets of the Paris Agreement are unrealistic and that any immediate plan to address climate change would have a huge economic cost for the US, in a period where growth is stalling and debt is soaring. One thing is sure: in order to build a path for a better tomorrow you need to ensure that future generations won’t suffer because of actions taken by previous ones. And that doesn’t look certain at all at the moment.
As the World reels under a second wave of coronavirus, we must learn from past mistakes to create a better future by introducing long term policies that are both inclusive and efficient in the way they create wealth and prosperity for all of us. With a potential Covid-19 vaccine and better days ahead, we can use the setback that the pandemic has been to start everything all over again. Everyone has an interest in building a better world, but the main problem is getting people to unite when it matters. And now, it matters more than ever. The US needs more unity on the national stage and solidarity with allies on the international stage, all while fighting disinformation and finding economically viable ways to continue creating value for all members of society, not only in America. Both Trump and Biden have a record to defend and errors to admit to be able to move on and address the many critical issues that lie ahead for the US and the World.
Written by Alessandro Cristofolini