Politics

Across the pond: the latest in the US election

As the election draws nearer, we provide a roundup of some of the biggest recent events in the US. (Source: Joshua Nathanson, via. Flickr)
As the election draws nearer, we provide a roundup of some of the biggest recent events in the US, including the response to Kamala Harris becoming Joe Biden's running mate, the controversy around USPS, foreign electoral threats and the DNC.

By Tom Kingsbury | Political Editor

Kamala Harris joins the ticket

Democrat frontrunner Joe Biden recently announced Kamala Harris as his running mate for the upcoming US election.

The partnership has proved popular in its early days, with the campaign raising nearly $50 million within two days of Harris joining the ticket.

Political strategist Rose Kapolczynski said of Harris’ pick: “It’s an invitation to younger and other occasional voters to get out and vote this time. Kamala Harris looks like change.”

The Biden campaign heavily criticised US President Donald Trump for fueling a false conspiracy about Harris, which suggested her eligibility as a candidate was questionable as a child of immigrants to the US, despite Harris being born in the country.

Mr Trump said: “I just heard it today that she doesn’t meet the requirements”, though he admitted he did not know if this theory was true.

Biden and Harris called the behaviour “abhorrent” and “pathetic”, reminding voters that Mr Trump spread the ‘birther’ conspiracies regarding the birthplace of former President Barack Obama.


The DNC

The Democrat Party has kicked off its national convention, in which Joe Biden was officially confirmed as the Democrats’ presidential candidate.

The convention will also include the unveiling of the 2020 Democratic platform – its priority values and policies for the upcoming US election.

This year will be a little different from previous years, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, and only the necessary participants will be present.

Speakers include Michelle and Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Jill Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and of course Kamala Harris and Joe Biden.

It will also include a Republican speaker in Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Trump critic who it is hoped will influence moderates in the GOP unhappy with Trump’s tenure.

Gair Rhydd will continue to cover both the Democratic National Convention and Republican National Convention (due in late August) as they progress.


USPS controversy

One of the biggest stories in the last week is – perhaps surprisingly – about the US Postal Service.

In the wake of Coronavirus, USPS has emerged as a potentially key player in the November elections.

According to polling, record numbers plan to vote by mail this year, fearing in-person voting or simply wanting to avoid Covid-19 measures which will likely be implemented in polling stations.

But USPS has warned states that millions of ballots may not arrive in time to be counted in the vote.

This may seem a nonpartisan issue, but it gets a little more complicated; heading USPS is an avid supporter of – and large donor to – President Trump. Fuelling controversy too was the fact that Mr Trump moved to block USPS funding, that USPS began to cut opening hours and overtime approval and had been removing mail sorting machines, which will sort mail-in ballots. 

The reaction was a strong one from many leading Democrats, including former President Barack Obama. Mr Obama called these actions “attempts to undermine the election”, claiming Mr Trump had the aim of “suppressing the vote”.

President Trump had claimed mail-in voting would lead to voting fraud, and help the opponent Joe Biden, though experts denied these claims.

It is also worth noting – as Biden did in a tweet – that Donald and Melania Trump recently requested mail-in ballots for the primary in their home state of Florida, though he claims the Floridian mail-in system is safe.

Facing strong criticism, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy reversed the controversial changes to the service, no longer cutting post office opening hours, ending the removal of mail sorting machines and post boxes, and continuing to approve overtime pay in order to allow for timely delivery. 

The pressure on the USPS head to make the U-turn was significant, with DeJoy due to testify before Congress, and at least 20 states planning to sue.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had sought to recall the House of Representatives to prevent the measures, responded:

“They felt the heat and that’s what we were trying to do, make it too hot to handle.”


Electoral threat

Foreign states will aim to “sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine confidence in our democratic process”, according to a statement by the head of US counterintelligence.

He identified the biggest threats to the election’s integrity as coming from China, Russia, and Iran, and added that they may also aim to call into question the validity of the result.

The department has assessed that China is seeking to oust Trump, seeing him as an unpredictable entity.

Russia, however, is seen as a supporter of President Trump, and the director suggested a Russian link to actors spreading claims of Mr Biden being corrupt and advocating Mr Trump.

Iran is assessed to be against the incumbent Trump, owing to US pressure on the Iranian regime, and is seeking to undermine US democratic institutions and divide the country ahead of the election.

With international actors seeking to muddy the election result, and internal disagreement over the security of the US electoral system from tampering or interference, looming on the horizon is an election result – whatever the outcome – that could be steeped in controversy and mistrust.

Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics

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