The year 2020 has seen an immense increase civic awareness for how the next presidential administration will handle issues of a global health crisis, police brutality, climate change, and countless other problems affecting the nation. With only four days left until the general election, the Watchdog has compiled the following hot button issues and the stances of Republican candidate President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
Coronavirus infections in the United States have reached over eight million cases, with 44 million cases worldwide, and many countries resuming lockdown efforts. With an absence of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and many families facing job loss, the pandemic has posed many questions for the handling of the pandemic. Biden has repeatedly called out the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic, arguing a Biden Administration would implement a mask mandate nationwide, set up access to more testing, including availability and variety of tests, and provide “restart packages” of economic aid to small businesses so they may operate safely. While President Trump has at times not prioritized the pandemic in the past, he has promised to make necessary supplies and medicines available to healthcare workers, todevelop and distribute a vaccine by the end of 2020, and “return to normal” in the 2021 year.
Black Lives Matter protests throughout the year have highlighted the urgent need for criminal justice reform. Biden, who has not promised to defund the police, has stated he will end private prisons, eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and decriminalize marijuana, expunging prior convictions. Trump, on the other hand, has emphasized upholding “law and order,” vowing to continue to fund law enforcement on the national and state level, and increasing sentences on crimes committed. During his term, President Trump has supplied states, cities and tribal nations in funding for police officers with upwards of $98 million. In response to the protests this June, President Trump passed an executive order on safe policing, promoting social services as the first responders to calls for mental health crises.
The frequency of forest fires across the west coast alongside the hurricanes across the south has urged the need to address the growing threat of climate change. Biden acknowledges the threats posed by climate change, insisting on a “Clean Energy Revolution,” following the framework of the Green New Deal. Biden would roll back the Trump corporate tax cuts and invest in a 100 percent clean energy economy and promised to have net-zero emissions by 2050. Trump has not included any plans for addressing climate change in his next term, nor has he acknowledged its continued threat. During his first term, President Trump expanded the fossil fuel industry by supporting offshore oil opportunities. President Trump also withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord and eased restrictions on pollution by various industries. However, in September, President Trump signed an executive order banning offshore drilling for a decade along the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. He recently signed an executive order called “One Trillion Trees Interagency Council” which would restore one trillion trees by 2030, as well as the “Great American Outdoors Act” which would use revenue from offshore drilling to finance the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provide a million dollars annually for five years to fund national forests, recreational areas and Native American schools.
Healthcare has been a key element of the 2020 race, with the emphasis on addressing the opioid epidemic, insurance coverage and reproductive rights. Biden has vouched for support for maintaining the Affordable Care Act, which he helped pass into law as Vice President During the Obama Administration. This plan would give Americans a public healthcare choice, as well as expanding healthcare access to low-income communities. Biden has also stated he would codify Roe V. Wade into law, creating a constitutional right to abortions, as well as allowing Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, and for similar clinics to receive Title X funding. President Trump has stated he will repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it but has not announced a specific plan yet. In his first term, he declared the opioid crisis a national emergency and created a commission to confront the issue. He has also created a task force to work on suicide prevention for veterans and signed an Executive Order which would nationally reduce insulin costs. As President Trump has claimed a “pro-life” stance, he has not disclosed any plans for expanding reproductive rights in the country. Currently, he has excluded clinics from receiving Title X funding, which was intended to give affordable reproductive access to clinics in low-income communities.
Before the challenges posed to K-12 and higher education during the pandemic, many were already concerned about student loans, public school funding and school safety. Biden has promised to create universal pre-K for three and four-year-olds. He has also vouched for tripling Title 1 funding, which would provide additional financial assistance to schools in low-income communities. Biden has promised would make up to two years of community college free, for both part-time students and DREAMers. Lastly, public colleges would be tuition-free for families who earn less than $125,000 annually. With regards to school shootings and gun violence, Biden has stated he would ban the manufacturing of assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and institute a buyback program. President Trump has promoted teaching “American exceptionalism” which would entail school choice and allowing parents to send their children to tax-payer supported charter schools. During his presidency, he has suspended some student loan repayments and set interests for some loans to 0 percent. He has also signed legislation that provides $250 million annually to Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). President Trump has repeatedly expressed his support for the second amendment, opposing House Bill’s which would have imposed restrictions on firearms. In response to school shootings, he has pushed for educators to be trained and armed.
The Watchdog will continue to provide updates as more information on General Election results is available.