Polarized and great division between political parties, the bastion of democracy, the United States hangs in the balance.

America is teetering on the brink. For some there are protests on the streets, for others there are riots. Some say the police are doing a great job, others say there is evidence of systemic racism. Some say COVID was expertly handled and is now behind them, to an extent that normality needs to immediately return. Others say that COVID has been a nightmare and it is much too soon to declare victory.

America is a country that is as polarized as it has ever been at any time since its history. The division between the political parties has been simmering for a number of years, but now it has reached boiling point as emotions and highly charged issues begin to take over. Issues of race and culture act as the backdrop to one of the most bizarre election campaigns of recent times.

They say that the race to the White House begins in earnest the day after Labor Day. A week into this final leg of the race and not a day has gone by without something new. We saw the President being accused of calling members of the military losers and suckers, and also admitting on a taped recording that COVID was much more serious than what he was saying in public.

To cap off a rocky week for the President, he suggested that he will seek constitutional change to enable him to serve a third term in office if he wins in November. For the United States, the great bastion of democracy as we know it, this is true unchartered territory. Yet for a President who it can be argued has insulted the beloved military, or was economical about the truth about COVID, or who has suggested constitutional change, his own party has largely remained silent.   

For Joe Biden and the Democrats, the strategy seems to be to play it safe. Trump will do his own damage. In political terms, it could be argued that playing things safe is the most dangerous strategy of all. Hillary Clinton arguably played it safe. After all, how could America elect someone with no experience, caught on tape degrading women, or someone who called Mexicans rapists to name just a few campaign incidents? Yet America did elect Donald Trump and Joe Biden should heed the warning.

This is no ordinary race. The traditional zig-zagging across the country to large frenzied crowds have largely been replaced by Zoom rallies to this point. The traditional party love-ins, also known as conventions, were replaced with a series of carefully choreographed speeches. The Democrats rolled all of their heavyweights out, from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton to Barrack Obama and from Hillary Clinton to Michelle Obama. While there were moments of hope and inspiration in these speeches, there was also a sad reflection of where America is in the world today when Michelle Obama pleaded for a leader who believes in science and tells the truth. In contrast to the Democrats, the Republicans targeted a family-style approach with most members of the Trump family speaking. The backdrop of the White House was an unbelievable sight in a country known for going to pains to ensure the different symbols of office are not used in a campaign. In the past, I have seen political staffers go to great pains to separate government work from campaign work. A government-owned computer, being used at home by a staffer could never be used for campaign purposes.

President Trump has started to hold a number of rallies with some people in attendance, and social distancing appears non-existent. Most polls still give Joe Biden the advantage, but the polls also indicated Hillary Clinton would win comfortably. There is a suggestion that there is a sense of Trump fatigue after 4 years. Yet the reality is that 45% of the country are committed Democrats and 45% are committed Republicans. The true battle is for the remaining 10%. However, it is not a true first past the post style election. Rather the Presidential election brings us the electoral college where each of the 50 states has a number of electoral college votes. As a result, it is relatively straightforward to predict most states, except for key swing states that could go either way. Expect Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to all figure prominently on the news in the coming weeks. No candidate has won the election without carrying Florida since 1992.

This will be my first Presidential vote. I registered with one of the parties and also signed up for their campaign online. From an independent perspective, I laugh every day. Not a day goes by without a text message or four, asking for me to donate “Just $3” or “Just $100” for an opportunity to meet one of the candidates via zoom. The email account is targeted also, and social media is covered in political posts. I attended one of the virtual rallies for Irish supporters and was impressed by the passion and commitment to get a grassroots movement up and running.

The 2020 campaign has ultimately come down to a race of fear and extremes. There appears to be little in between. It is either a riot or a protest. It is either self-defense or murder. It is the overreaction to COVID or not doing enough. It is socialism or freedom. The lack of a middle ground is a real issue in the United States. There have been so many errors of judgment from the President in the last four years. Yet, the reality is he is still challenging with a realistic chance of winning the election. It says a lot about the country that such issues can be overlooked, but it also questions whether the Democrats and Joe Biden have truly taken the fight to Trump. It is arguable that Hillary Clinton believed she would win the election as Trump continued to self-inflict damage on himself throughout the campaign. It is arguable that Joe Biden is pursuing the same approach. Time will tell if this approach will be correct, but if Hillary had her time again, it is likely that she would have taken a far more aggressive approach towards the President. 

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