In exactly four months, Americans will head to the polls for the 2020 election. Donald Trump will be fighting for reelection against the Democratic presidential nominee, while all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate will also be contested. Furthermore, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 states and two territories, a majority of state legislatures, and multiple municipalities.
With just four months until election day, MJPS has rounded up some of the most important election-shaping events from last month, along with a preview of what to expect in American politics over the next month.
1. Joe Biden officially clinches the Democratic nomination (June 6th)
After a long primary campaign, where more than twenty Democrats were vying for the nomination at one point last summer, former Vice-President Joe Biden finally reached the magical number of delegates to clinch his party’s nomination: 1,991. While this was more of a formality, since Biden was the only candidate left with an active campaign, it ensures that the convention will not be contested. Earlier in the primary, when multiple candidates were collecting delegates, there was a fear none would earn a majority, causing a brokered convention.
The third time was the charm for Biden, who also competed for the nomination in 1988 and 2008. While he had been leading in the polls for most of last year, the first few contests did not go well for him. He placed fourth in the Iowa caucuses and fifth in the New Hampshire primary, before coming in second behind Bernie Sanders in the Nevada Caucuses. However, Biden’s overwhelming victory in the South Carolina primary at the end of February revived his campaign, and he took control of the delegate race following Super Tuesday.
While a lot can happen between now and election day, Biden is currently in a good position to become the next president. He is leading by a large margin in national polls, and by smaller margins in swing states won by Trump last time around, such as Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
2. The Supreme Court issues rulings on LGBTQ+ rights, DACA, and abortion laws
This past month, the Supreme Court started issuing decisions for the cases it heard this cycle. While the court is meant to be non-partisan, it is currently divided between two factions: the five conservative judges and the four liberal judges. Therefore, it is usually expected that rulings on social issues, such as abortion, will lean in favour of the conservative side.
Despite the current make-up of the court, three major decisions recently issued were celebrated by liberal activists. On June 15th, in Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act extended to gender identity and sexual orientation. The majority opinion was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed to the court by Trump. Chief Justice John Roberts was the other conservative justice to join the four liberal justices in the majority. A few days later, Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by the four liberal justices, blocking the Trump administration’s attempt at ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. And then, on June 29th, Roberts once again sided with the four liberal justices in June Medical Services v. Russo, which blocked an abortion law in Louisiana that could have closed most clinics in the state.
After the first two decisions were issued, President Trump took to Twitter to air his grievances, tweeting that “[t]hese horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives.” Trump has long presented his appointment of two conservative justices – Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – as one of his biggest achievements. However, this claim loses part of its appeal following these three decisions, because Trump’s appointments have not prevented the court from issuing “liberal” decisions.
3. The USMCA goes into effect (July 1st)
One of Trump’s central campaign promises was to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he called at the time “the worst trade deal ever made.” NAFTA, ratified in 1993, was a trade agreement between Canada, the United States, and Mexico that mostly removed protectionist trade barriers and allowed for a free movement of goods and capital across North America.
Following months of negotiation, a new trade deal was agreed upon by the three countries in 2018: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). While the agreement has a new name, it is quite similar to NAFTA, with some changes to rules-of-origin requirements for the auto sector, the U.S. access to the Canadian dairy market, and the investor-state dispute settlement rules.
It is not clear what impact this new agreement will have on the U.S. economy, especially since it is so similar to the former one. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimated that it would increase the country’s GDP by 0.35%. However, this number was released before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, so it might not still be accurate. Nevertheless, the Trump administration celebrated the USMCA entering into force with various tweets from the official White House account. Trump will surely praise the new trade deal on the campaign trail until November; it remains to be seen if it will influence voters to give him another mandate.
1. States continue to deal with the coronavirus pandemic
One month after the United States became the first country to reach 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, the situation is still not under control in the majority of states. On July 2nd, the country recorded its highest number of daily new cases yet: 50, 203. While the first epicentre of the pandemic in the country, New York, has been able to flatten the curve, other states have seen their situation worsen over the past week, including Texas, Arizona, and California.
Some states have halted or reversed their re-openings to try to get the outbreak under control. For example, California announced that indoor dining, bars, and other indoor facilities would close in certain countries, Michigan is closing bars in parts of the state, and Arizona is closing bars, gyms, movie theatres, and other indoor facilities for one month. There is a fear among public health experts that there could be a spike in cases after the Fourth of July weekend since there was a spike in cases in some states after Memorial Day.
While President Trump’s approval numbers have continued to decline, in part due to his poor handling of the pandemic, he has not embraced a more aggressive solution and has, for the part, let states individually handle the crisis. Trump also held a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that did not follow social distancing guidelines. If the president does not change his pandemic response, and cases continue to rise around the country, it might be harder for him to convince voters he deserves a second mandate.
Edited by Eyitayo Kunle-Oladosu
This article is part of a series on the 2020 United States elections. To see more analysis and opinion on the American presidential and congressional elections, click here.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association.
Image by Nico Paix via Wikimedia Commons