US Election: All You Need To Know

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With less than a month to go, the US election has become as talked about as Brexit, the difference between them being that one disaster has already happened. It seems almost impossible not to be aware of the dramatics involving this election. As each presidential debate concludes, the tensions in the US are mounting fast, the future for Americans seems uncertain and politically the polls are showing the nation to be indeed divided. With Hillary Clinton leading the Democrats and Donald Trump the Republicans, the run up to the election has seen many scandals involving them both, of which there has been much speculation as to their credibility. But looking beyond the allegations and the commotion concerning each candidate, what are their true aims as presidential candidates? Though we have no voting power in the matter, it is important that we remain aware as to the political and economic future of the world’s most powerful nation. 

The Election: How Does It Work?

The American electoral system works in a simple way; the candidate with the most votes in a particular state becomes the candidate that that state votes for president.

Each state has a group of Electors, which make the decision of which presidential candidate to support. The amount of Electors each state is allocated depends on how many members of Congress (the lawmaking branch of US government, composed of the Senate and House of Representatives) that state has, as well as taking population into account. In total the US has 538 Electors and this body is sometimes referred to as the Electoral College. When voters place their votes for candidates, they are actually voting for their state Electors for that political party, some of which have already pledged themselves to certain candidates. Although Electors are expected to support the candidate which their particular state favours, in terms of votes, the Constitution does not actually require this, however today it is incredibly rare for Electors to ignore the popular vote.

‘Swing States’

Candidates can often rely on certain states for votes, for example California has a reputation for preferring Democratic candidates whereas Texas is well known for being a strongly Republican state. So called ‘Swing States’ are states that could favour either party, these are the states in which Clinton and Trump have focused their energies, as was the case recently in Ohio. Clinton and Trump will need the votes of at least 270 electors of the total 538 to become president.

What happens after the election?

The election itself will occur on Tuesday 8 November, after which the 45th President of the US will be announced. Provided the results are conclusive, and the president is immediately announced after all states have provided their votes, the candidate will begin preparations for the role, this involves selecting their cabinet, chief of staff and revising their policies further, ready for their inauguration on 20 January 2017.

The ‘Lame Duck’

But now let us digress onto the main concern on many of our minds, what happens to current president, Barack Obama after the new president is announced? Essentially, he becomes a ‘lame duck’, a term used in politics to describe an elected official whose successor has been elected. When the president is elected, although Obama will no longer have superior influence over decisions in the White House, there is a period of time (73 days) in which Obama can set out to accomplish the presidential aims that remain yet unachieved. This period of time is called the ‘Lame Duck’ session. Perhaps this means one last push for the Trans Pacific Partnership trade alliance. As for beyond the White House, it seems that Obama is interested in pursuing humanitarian objectives particularly focusing on education. Obama’s legacy is ubiquitous. From his immense efforts in the fight against climate change to the creation of millions of jobs in an economy almost plunged into one of the greatest recessions since the Great Depression and his great strides in American healthcare, it is clear that Obama has been a true asset to America and the world during his two terms of presidency. He has indeed brought new air of charisma and cool to the White House.

Hillary Clinton: The Democratic Future of America

Ahead in the polls only slightly, it is uncertain at this stage whether Clinton will become president, but nonetheless as the first female president the US has ever seen, it would definitely be a historic win for Clinton. Few presidential candidates have been so intertwined with politics as Clinton has in her lifetime. Upholding roles such as secretary of state, senator and first lady of the US, she is more than qualified for the job, at least more so than her opponent. But where does this esteemed candidate stand on key issues?

Immigration

A proud supporter of immigration, strongly believing in the advantages it brings both to the US socially and economically, Clinton encourages this and plans on continuing the current immigration policy put in place by Obama and intends to bring about reform in terms of the “broken immigration system”. Clinton believes in enforcing immigration laws “humanely” and being sympathetic to specialist cases such as those involving delicate family structures and those seeking asylum in the US. Clinton wishes to create a healthcare system through reform that does not exclude those with certain immigration status, allowing a greater number of immigrants to access health insurance. As an advocate for racial integration, Clinton affirms that allowing unilateral immigration is vital as well as providing funding for community projects to help facilitate this immigrant integration.

Taxation

Clinton is set on making the taxation system in the US fairer, and more progressive. She intends to do this by creating a new tax bracket for those earning over $5,000,000, setting the bracket at 43.6%. The issue of tax evasion has been highly discussed by Clinton both in terms of the issues of tax evasion surrounding Trump, and the benefits that this higher tax bracket could ensue. This extra national income will go towards subsidising university education for students in low income families.

Foreign Policy

Formerly criticised for her support of America’s involvement with the war in Iraq, Clinton has faced much scrutiny regarding her views on foreign policy as senator. In general Clinton supports the strengthening of existing alliances, such as that of NATO, and continuing the work of Obama in creating diplomatic ties with Cuba. Clinton has overtly stated her strong opinions of not standing with Russia in terms of their military aggression. Clinton believes that above all else America must work with its allies to “dismantle global terror networks”.

Economic Policy and Employment

In cutting corporation tax rates for small businesses Clinton believes this could result in the growth of small businesses allowing them to hire and invest more. Clinton plans to invest resources into infrastructure, clean energy, manufacturing, technology and small businesses, believing that this will have a positive ripple effect throughout the economy, creating many more jobs. This will all be funded using the extra tax revenue. At this stage most of Clinton’s policy objectives focus on supporting small businesses and individuals, particularly in alleviating the burdens of student debt.

Trade

Despite considering the Trans Pacific Partnership the “gold standard” of trade deals at one time, Clinton now affirms that this deal is not the way forward in terms of international trade. The deal restricts trade with countries not bound by the agreement. Clinton believes in the benefits of global trade, therefore disagrees with the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Environment

Luckily climate change is an issue that Clinton intends to prioritise just as Obama has done, intending to deliver on the agreement set by Obama at the climate change conference in Paris, invest in half a billion solar panels within her first term as president as well as invest in cleaner fuels to reduce America’s heavy dependence on oil.

Donald Trump: Making America Great Again?

Former businessman and disappointment for many republicans, Trump has developed a strong following based on his main plans regarding immigration, foreign policy and international trade. Despite his outrageous claims and highly offensive demeanor, Trump, it seems has a strong core following, who despite the numerous rumours and allegations concerning him, have not wavered in their belief that Trump will “Make America great again!”

Immigration

A subject that has not only divided the two candidates but most of America, immigration has become a pertinent issue for Trump, as his proposed “wall” excluding illegal Mexican immigrants was perhaps one of his most impractical yet well-known plans. Trumps intends to restrict and discourage immigration, unlike his democratic opponent, who sees the benefits immigrants can bring to a nation. Trump’s overt distaste towards immigrants has contributed to his reputation as being racially prejudiced, as he intends to close the US borders to all Muslims.

Taxation

Trump’s tax plan involves reducing corporation taxes to make them more internationally competitive in order to encourage business activity to remain in the US. Yet Trumps plans are myopic, as research conducted by the Tax Foundation proves, these plan will in the long term result in a large addition to the deficit.

Foreign Policy

This issue was discussed in depth in the three debates, as it is an issue that the two rivals differ on greatly. Trump unlike Clinton insists on creating a strong alliance with Russia, believing that in terms of national defense, closer relations with Putin will greatly benefit America. Trump’s approach to foreign policy is ill-informed and far too aggressive, advocating that America, follow Russia and devote more resources and weapons to fight.

Economic Policy and Employment

In reducing Corporation tax, from 35% down to 15%, Trump hopes to create many jobs and retain economic activity in America. Trump intends to boost employment particularly in the inner-cities where the unemployment is more pressing an issue, by investing in infrastructure in the communities.

Trade

Although not opposed to free trade, Trump demands that all negotiations regarding trade must favour America. Disregarding the Trans Pacific Partnership, affirming that America must renegotiate trade deals with the North America Free Trade Agreement instead, however Trump states that if they do not agree to this renegotiation America will remove itself from the deal completely, these plans lack simple economic credibility.

Environment

The goals regarding energy on the Donald Trump website are ambiguous and lack reason. On one occasion trump states that America will abandon all association with the OPEC oil cartel and other nations “hostile” to the interests of America. The claims that America will become energy independent so soon seem idealistic.

The Future of America

Well, seeing beyond the waves of mass social media speculation, it is important to recognise the facts clearly. And when watching the debates, fact check everything! The two candidate differ on mostly all issues as can be witnessed in the debates which, from the republican side, are more entertaining than informative. The polls though are in favour of democrat Clinton are not reliable, so the election could sway either way.

By Gugundeep Kaur

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About Author

This is Leanna's third year involved with LSU Media. Having been Label Culture Editor and Assistant Editor on committee, as well as a columnist and Feature Content Coordinator, she's now taking on the Label Editor role. Leanna's job involves ensuring Label content is published to a high quality in print and online, encouraging new and old volunteers to get involved, and sitting as a member of LSU Media Senate.

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