In exactly three months, Americans will head to the polls for the 2020 election. Donald Trump will be fighting for reelection against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, 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 three 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. Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis dies (June 17th)
After a battle with pancreatic cancer, civil rights hero and Democratic congressman John Lewis (GA-05) passed away at age 80. As a young man and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis participated in lunch counter sit-ins, was a Freedom Rider, and was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. In 1965, Lewis organized a march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, where he and other marchers were attacked by the state and local police. This day, now known as “Bloody Sunday,” ultimately led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Lewis was elected to the Atlanta city council in 1981, and the U.S. House of Representatives six years later. Lewis’s life was honoured in a multi-day celebration, starting in his hometown of Troy, Alabama. His casket crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where Lewis had almost died in 1965 and was then flown to Washington, D.C, where Lewis became the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. Lewis was also honoured in a ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol, before his funeral in Atlanta, where he was eulogized by former President Barack Obama.
Following his passing, many called on Congress to honour Lewis’ legacy by strengthening voting rights. Back in December 2019, the House of Representatives voted to reinstate key elements of the Voting Rights Act that had been struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. After Lewis’ death, the House voted to rename the bill the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump have not indicated they support the bill, so it likely will not pass for now. Democratic candidate Joe Biden has indicated on Twitter he supports the bill; the results of the next election will likely determine if it is passed.
2. The COVID-19 death toll reaches 150,000, as Congress fails to come up with a new relief bill (July 31st)
After becoming the first country to reach a COVID-19 death toll of 100,000 in late May, the United States recently became the first country to reach a death toll of 150,000. After the fatality rate declined during June, it rose steadily in July. Earlier in the pandemic, states in the Northeast and Midwest, especially New York, saw the worst of the epidemic. The epicentre is now in the Sun Belt, hitting hard states like Texas, Arizona, and California.
While the epidemic shows no sign of slowing down, Congress has not passed a relief bill in months. In May, the House of Representatives passed a massive relief bill, which included funding for local governments, a payment of $1,200 to eligible households, and funding for the United States Postal Service. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does not support the bill and has not allowed a vote on it in the Senate. With unemployment benefits expiring on July 31st, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have been negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, but have not reached a deal yet.
President Trump, who has portrayed himself over the years as a deal-maker, has for the most part not been involved in the negotiations. While Pelosi, Schumer, Mnuchin, and Meadows were working on an agreement during the weekend, Trump was away golfing.
1. Joe Biden announces his vice-presidential pick
After months of speculation, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden will announce his running mate. Biden’s running mate will be a woman, as he announced at a debate against Bernie Sanders in March. While Biden had first announced August 1st as his self-imposed deadline to announce his vice-presidential, he recently declared that he would announce his pick in the first week of August. However, campaign aides have made it known that the pick will likely be announced in the week of August 10th, right before the Democratic National Convention.
Sen. Kamala Harris, once a presidential contender herself, is believed to be the frontrunner to be Biden’s vice-presidential pick. However, the Biden campaign is said to still be considering eleven different candidates. While no list has been made public, it is widely believed that it includes at least two other senators — Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth — Obama national security advisor Susan Rice, representatives Karen Bass and Val Demings, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
2. The Democratic National Convention (August 17th-20th) and the Republican National Convention
After being delayed from their original dates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both parties will finally hold their respective conventions to nominate (or in the case of the GOP, renominate) their presidential ticket for the upcoming election. Both conventions are expected to be scaled-down affairs, as compared to previous ones, because of public health concerns.
The Democratic National Convention (DNC) will be hosted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from August 17th to August 20th. It will mostly be virtual and is expected to only last two hours per day. Strict rules have already been announced to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak; attendees will have to self-isolate before getting to Milwaukee, get tested daily while attending the conference, and masks will be mandatory. While speakers have not been announced yet, it is expected that the vice-presidential candidate will deliver a speech from the convention centre on August 19th, and Biden will do the same the following night.
The Republican National Convention (RNC) will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, from August 21st to August 24th, after being briefly moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in an attempt to circumvent strict public health guidelines. In an unprecedented move, it was recently announced that reporters would not be allowed to attend the convention. According to the Associated Press, it is the first time in modern history that reporters will not be able to attend a party’s convention. It remains to be seen how the RNC will be covered by the media if they are not allowed the same access as usual.
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