By Phillip Powell
With America a week out from one of its most contentious elections in modern history, it is easy to feel yourself getting lost in the noise from the headlines of the twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, no breaks or vacations, driving-you-up-the-walls news cycle. However, what those headlines get right is that this truly is one of the most consequential elections the student body of Hendrix may ever face, and so many students are voting for the first time. The two major-party candidates voters will choose between are incumbent Republican President Donald Trump, and Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden. The differences between these two candidates and their visions for America could not be starker; it would behoove us to take a look at where they stand on three of the important issues impacting this election.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic was ravaging through the U.S. (we’ll get to that), healthcare was on everyone’s minds. While many students have the privilege of not having to worry too much about their health, so many students, and Americans beyond our campus, have chronic health conditions that are exasperated by the pandemic. Trump and Biden have very different proposals to address this problem. Joe Biden would pass legislation to expand Medicaid eligibility and increase Medicare spending by lowering the age to enroll in Medicare to 60, as well as capping the cost of insurance to 8.5 percent of income and establishing a public option plan to compete in insurance markets.
On the other hand, President Trump repealed major parts of Obamacare and other regulations on health insurance companies, allowing insurers to offer plans that don’t cover essential care, discriminate against LGBTQ patients, and ending subsidies that help insurers cover lower-income people. Despite the President’s claims that he will protect Americans with preexisting conditions, the Trump Justice Department is supporting a lawsuit that would repeal Obamacare — also known as the law that enacted protections for preexisting conditions. But hey, let’s be fair: Trump told Chris Wallace in a Fox News interview that he was going to propose a healthcare plan back on July 19th. Maybe he forgot?
Criminal Justice Reform
Following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May, this year has seen some of the most active protests for racial justice, police reform, and prison reform in a while. Many Hendrix students have taken part in these protests, and for anyone not paying attention to the election yet, Biden and Trump have some very different things to say. Spoiler: neither of them wants to defund the police. Biden’s platform includes investing 300 million dollars in community policing, with that cash being used for independent prosecutors in cases of police killings, more accountability training for officers, as well as collecting data on police violence and use of force. Biden would also abolish the death penalty, mandatory-minimums, the cash bail system, as well as phasing out private prisons by ending their services at the federal level. Biden will also begin decriminalizing marijuana possession and expunge the records of those with possession offenses.
When it comes to President Trump’s relationship to this issue: he infamously tear-gassed peaceful protesters to get a photo-op for his reelection campaign, sent border patrol agents to cities to pick up random protesters on the streets without identifying themselves, and spent the entire month of July campaigning to preserve monuments to the Confederacy. He also bragged about federal marshals extra-judicially killing a man in Portland at his rallies, so I guess we know where he stands. It is important to note that Trump did sign the bipartisan First Step Act, which was a good move towards fixing many of the problems created by mass incarceration, but it didn’t address policing problems.
This article would not be complete without an overview of where the candidates stand on the pandemic that has killed over 200,000 Americans, completely upending all of our lives. The candidates could not have a more night and day approach towards getting the nation through this crisis, and this is fairly obvious, given that one of the candidates (guess who) has been President for the duration of the pandemic. President Trump has left it up to state governments to beg his administration for lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE), has refused to wear a mask (and has mocked reporters and others for wearing masks), doesn’t want to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off workers, has spread disinformation about the virus and its potential treatments, and is constantly downplaying the seriousness of a virus that has infected over 7 million Americans with no end in sight. He also said on national television, in one of his coronavirus press conferences back in April, quote, “…I see disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside…”
Biden, on the other hand, has pledged to establish free testing nationwide, sign up 100,000 contact tracers to track and prevent the spread, support mask mandates, and support more federal funding for small businesses, schools, and child-care centers.
All in all, this election cycle has been a doozy, and it has been a doozy that most of us are ready to leave behind. The only way out of this election is to see it to the end, and even though we are all exhausted, by the time this article is published it will only be around a week until November 3rd. So, regardless of who you decide to vote for, make your voice heard at the ballots.
This article was featured in the Issues Issue. Check out the Issues Issue in its full glory here.