Saro Thiruppathy covers the issues facing Americans in the upcoming presidential election

The world usually takes note when Americans go to the polls to vote for a new president. This is because the outcome of domestic choices affects the globe in general and more specifically, countries that are vulnerable to US interference.

This time around, several new factors are impacting the choice of the people such as the COVID-19 pandemic – which is raging across many states in the US – and of course, the riots and internal strife that revolve around the Black Lives Matter movement.

All this is in addition to the adversaries that the incumbent president has managed to create over the four years such as NATO members, withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), trade issues with China, problems with NAFTA, attempts to instigate regime change in Venezuela etc.

President Donald Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and undermine social security have also contributed to dissatisfaction among many Americans.

According to the Pew Research Center, the following are the areas of concern to American voters: the economy is topmost on their minds (79%) followed by healthcare (68%), Supreme Court appointments (64%), COVID-19 (62%), violent crime (59%), foreign policy (57%), gun policy (55%), race and ethnic inequality (52%), immigration (52%), economic inequality (49%), climate change (42%) and abortion (40%).

While Democrats (72%) consider the economy important, they are also extremely concerned about healthcare (84%), Supreme Court appointments (66%), COVID-19 (82%), race and ethnic inequality (76%), economic inequality (65%) and climate change (68%).

Meanwhile, Trump supporters are more concerned about the economy (88%), violent crime (74%), gun policy (60%), immigration (61%) and abortion (46%). The coronavirus outbreak doesn’t seem to matter much (39%), and nor does healthcare (48%), race and inequality (24%) or economic inequality (28%). Climate change also doesn’t concern or mean anything to most of them (24%).

The only area that both Democrat and GOP voters agree on is foreign policy (57%). In the light of these issues, here’s what the two presidential candidates have to say.

JOE BIDEN On the issue of the COVID-19, former Vice President Joe Biden promises to implement free testing for all, establish national contact tracing and testing centres in every state, and make wearing masks mandatory.

He wants to raise the minimum wage and invest in green energy, rescind Trump era tax cuts and forgive federal student loans up to US$ 10,000. His ‘Build Back Better’ plan aims to appeal to youth and blue-collar workers.

Biden hopes to institute criminal justice reforms, grants for minority communities and help in generating business support for them. He plans to reduce incarceration, address race, gender and income based disparities in the justice system, and rehabilitate prisoners.

And Biden says he won’t defund the police but will ensure that some of its funding is redirected to support social issues such as mental health problems. He also plans to call for investment in community policing.

Biden intends to rejoin the Paris Agreement and calls climate change an ‘existential threat.’ He wishes to restore the country’s reputation internationally, handle China differently and rekindle relations with US allies particularly NATO members.

And he wants to expand the Affordable Care Act and provide health insurance for 97 percent of Americans, include the elderly and lower the age of eligibility from 65 to 60 years.

The presidential contender says that in his first 100 days in office, he will reverse Trump’s policy of separating parents and children at the US-Mexican border, remove limits on applications for asylum and end the ban on travel from Muslim majority countries. And he promises to protect the Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme and ensure their eligibility for federal student aid.

Biden has already endorsed several policies on education such as student loan debt forgiveness, expansion of tuition free colleges and universal preschool access. He says he can fund this through the money gained from withdrawing Trump era tax cuts.

DONALD TRUMP Trump has rolled back federal regulations on businesses, implemented corporate and income tax reductions, and supported products made in the US as part of his ‘America First’ campaign.

But his mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis and the economic fallout is affecting Americans. Further, the US opioid crisis is being exacerbated by his unrelenting efforts to terminate the Affordable Care Act.

His belligerence continues towards former friends, current foes and multilateral agreements. His domestic policies of curbing immigration, building the US-Mexico border wall, rescinding DACA and eliminating the visa lottery system and chain migration are still very much on the cards.

He claims a few international accomplishments with Pyongyang and the recent agreement between Israel and the UAE but their long-term success is yet to be seen. And Trump has approved oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

While Biden’s pledges are enticing, they may not all come to fruition; and if Trump wins a second term, nothing will change. So it seems that the election for some Americans is akin to being stuck between a rock and a hard place.