Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
The 58th quadrennial US Presidential election to elect the 45th President of the United States of America is coming to an end. It was a long campaign season, unnatural for its heightened hostility and negativity.
1.40 PM IST – 45/50 states results are in. Trump – 278 votes vs Clinton – 218 votes. Donald Trump wins 2016 U.S Presidential elections.
1.30 PM IST – After the results were announced from 44 out of the 50 states, Donald Trump is in lead with 265 votes vs Hillary Clinton’s 218 votes. A candidate needs 270 votes to win majority.
The Logical Indian looks back on the main points of the election.
Main parties (and their Presidential nominee):
Democratic Party (Hillary Clinton)
Republican Party (Donald Trump)
Libertarian Party (Gary Johnson)
Green Party (Jill Stein)
A brief on the US Presidential election process:
Every four years, the United States goes to the polls to elect their President. This election is indirect in nature – that is, the voters don’t elect their President directly; instead, they elect State electors (who form the Electoral College) who in turn elect the President.
In the modern era, the process is preceded by primaries, caucuses and conventions. The candidates who wish to be elected President must first be nominated by a party. The United States has many political parties but due to its electoral history and system, it has developed into a two-party set-up. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party have dominated US politics (and elections) since 1860. While there have been third-party or independent candidates over the years, the last time either of them carried a State was in 1968.
The candidates who want to be elected President first run for the nomination of either major party. For this, the candidates must campaign through primaries and/or caucuses in the fifty States of the US. Primaries and caucuses are essentially a form of indirect election where either the entire population of a State or the registered party members in that State elect the candidate of their choice. The voters choose delegates who represent them to choose the candidate. After this process is completed in all the States, the candidate who has more than half the number of total delegates is declared the presumptive nominee of the party. Then, in July, the party holds a convention where all the delegates and party members convene to formally elect the victor candidate as their party’s nominee. Thus, by now, there are two nominees – one from each of the major parties. Each nominee picks a Vice-presidential candidate who is also recognized at the respective convention.
Following the declaration of the nominees, the general election season begins. Campaigns are conducted nation-wide but are concentrated in certain swing States which are deemed safe for neither party. Presidential and Vice-presidential debates are conducted between the conventions and the election. The debates are not constitutionally mandated but they have been a regular feature in recent US history.
The election normally takes place on one of the earlier Tuesdays of November. Again, the election is indirect in nature. Voters in all States elect electors who in turn elect the nominee. Each State has a certain number of electoral votes proportionate to its population. The candidate with the most number of votes wins all the electors of that State – this is essentially a winner-take-all system. Eventually, the Presidential election is won by the candidate with the most number of electoral votes (that is, at least 270 out of 538).
The current US President, Barack Obama, cannot run for a third term due to the two-term limit set by the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution.
Main people involved:
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Former First Lady, Senator from New York and Secretary of State; Democratic Nominee for President.
Donald John Trump: Businessman and television producer; Republican Nominee for President.
Tim Kaine: Senator from Virginia; Democratic Nominee for Vice-president.
Mike Pence: Governor of Indiana; Republican Nominee for Vice-president.
Bernie Sanders: Senator from Vermont; Democratic candidate.
Ted Cruz: Senator from Texas; Republican candidate.
Marco Rubio: Senator from Florida; Republican candidate.
Jeb Bush: Former Governor of Florida; Republican candidate.
12 April 2015 – Hillary Clinton enters the race to secure the Democratic nomination.
16 June 2015 – Donald Trump enters the race to secure the Republican nomination.
August 2015 to April 2016 – Debates and forums are held between the various Democratic and Republican candidates by their respective parties.
22 October 2015 – Hillary Clinton testifies before the House Select Committee on Benghazi in an eight-hour-long public hearing; the hearing transforms into a trial concerning Clinton’s email controversy.
November 2015: Trump calls for Muslims in the US to be put under surveillance; later, he proposes a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.
1 February 2016 – Democratic and Republican primaries and caucuses begin; Iowa is the first State.
4 May 2016 – Donald Trump declared the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.
6 June 2016 – Hillary Clinton declared the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.
5 July 2016: The FBI concludes its probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails, declares that it recommends no charges against Clinton.
18 July 2016 to 21 July 2016 – The Republican National Convention takes place in Cleveland; Donald Trump is formally nominated as the Republican Party’s nominee and Mike Pence is nominated as the Vice-presidential nominee.
25 July 2016 to 28 July 2016 – The Democratic National Convention takes place in Philadelphia; Hillary Clinton is formally nominated as the Democratic Party’s nominee and Tim Kaine is nominated as the Vice-presidential nominee.
July 2016: WikiLeaks begins releasing various emails from and by the Democratic National Committee. The leaked emails suggested that the DNC showed favouritism towards Clinton during the primaries and was critical of Bernie Sanders. Further leaks of emails from or received by Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta shined light on Clinton’s positions on free trade and open borders.
9 August 2016: In a campaign stop in North Carolina, Trump suggests that any move on gun control should evoke violent reaction from Second Amendment supporters; in later comments in the coming weeks he jokes about the assassination of Hillary Clinton.
26 September 2016: The first Presidential debate takes place. Commentators criticize Trump for continuously interrupting Clinton during the debate and straying from answering many questions. Independent analysts conclude that Clinton won the debate.
4 October 2016: The Vice-presidential debate takes place. Independent analysts conclude that Mike Pence won the debate.
7 October 2016: The Washington Post releases a 2005 Access Hollywood tape where Trump is heard justifying sexual assault, using lewd language and objectifying women. The tape causes a major backlash from across the political spectrum; many Republicans rescind their endorsement of Trump and his poll numbers drop.
9 October 2016: The second Presidential debate takes place. This was conducted in a town-hall format and was the first debate since the release of the Access Hollywood tape. Independent analysts conclude that Clinton won the debate.
19 October 2016: The third Presidential debate takes place. It was the final debate before the election. Independent analysts conclude that Clinton won the debate.
28 October 2016: FBI Director James Comey reveals that the FBI is restarting its investigation into Clinton’s emails after a new batch of emails were found in another investigation.
6 November 2016: FBI Director James Comey says the FBI had analysed all the emails, and its decision has not changed since July; they again recommended no charges be brought up.
8 November 2016: The election takes place.
9 November 2016: Donald Trump Wins Election
Supreme Court: The next President of the United States might have the opportunity to nominate as many as three Supreme Court judges. Given the highly crucial role that the Supreme Court plays in America, this was a central talking point during the election season.
Congressional and Senatorial races: No matter who wins, it is imperative that the winner’s party have control of the US Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate. Without this, major legislative action or the approval of US Supreme Court justices will be an uphill battle. All members of the House of Representative and one-third of the Senate are up for re-election.
Hillary Clinton’s emails: The controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s usage of a private server to send emails during her time as Secretary of State haunted her campaign from the beginning. The Congressional hearings regarding the Benghazi attack in Libya where four Americans were killed transformed into a Congressional trial concerning Clinton’s emails. The Democrats echoed Bernie Sanders’ famous quote during the first Democratic debate when he said “[The American people are] sick and tired about hearing about [Clinton’s] damn emails … they want us to talk about the issues.” The Republicans, on the contrary, made the emails a campaign talking point, accusing Clinton of compromising American interests and classified information.
Trump’s tax returns: It is a US electoral tradition for Presidential nominees to release their tax returns so that the voters can know of their nominee’s financial dealings and be aware of any conflict of interests. Donald Trump went against this decades-old tradition by refusing to release his tax returns. He ignored criticism from the Democrats and admonishment from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The re-rise of American socialism: The unprecedented success of Bernie Sanders was evident in the way he mobilized the masses and in his unrivalled popularity among the youth. Commentators noted how a self-declared “democratic socialist” defied expectations and posed a surprisingly serious challenge to Hillary Clinton during the primary season. After endorsing Clinton on 12 July 2016, Sanders argued for what would become the most progressive and liberal platform in the history of the Democratic Party.
“Insider vs. outsider”: The Tea Party-romanticized image of the maverick outsider to politics who enters the mess of Washington to clean all the corruption and logjams was a concept both parties’ supporters bought. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump represented the “outsiders” to their constituents while Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz were representatives of the establishment or the “insiders”. This concept of fresh leadership versus the years of experience and efficiency that establishment politics brings was at the forefront of the election.
Troll-ism: False information from partisan media outlets and trolls from everywhere from Russia to Macedonia corrupted the election’s debates and polarized the conversation.
The FBI: The Federal Bureau of Investigation was in charge of an investigation of Clinton’s emails. In July, FBI Director James Comey declared in a press conference that Clinton’s conduct, while irresponsible, was not illegal, and he recommended no charges. However, in 28 October, less than two weeks before the election, the FBI announced that they had found a new batch of 650,000 Clinton emails in a different investigation and declared that they were reopening the probe. However, only a week later on 6 November, Comey said after investigation of these emails the FBI had not changed its July stance and again recommended no charges against Clinton. The FBI’s abrupt and erratic conduct drew criticism from both parties.
Sexism: The candidacy of Hillary Clinton and her election as the first female nominee of a major US party brought new gender dynamics to American politics. The media and the public’s reaction and response have been under constant scrutiny. Moreover, the conduct of Donald Trump raised issues of sexism and misogyny on part of the Trump campaign. Trump infamously called Clinton a “nasty woman” during the third debate and made derogatory comments on news anchors, models and the women who accused him of sexual assault.
Healthcare: The Affordable Care Act’s success in giving over 90% of Americans healthcare was contrasted with its rising premiums and decreasing affordability. While Clinton favoured reforming Obamacare, Trump wanted its complete reversal.
Media bias: Mainstream media outlets overtly polarized the conversation. There was an obvious political leaning on the part of many major news outlets including Fox News and MSNBC. Each news channel favoured their own candidates and shed more light on their own points of view.
Immigration: One of the most prominent platforms of the Trump campaign was its advocacy for stronger immigration laws. The fate of nearly 10 million immigrants living illegally in the US was a hot topic. Plus, Trump’s promise of building a wall on the American-Mexican border to curb illegal immigration and making Mexico “pay for the wall” was highly controversial.
Trade: The validity of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP) and the legacy of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were contested.
Economic inequality: Both candidates argued against economic inequality. Clinton stated that she wanted to “make the economy work for all and not only those at the top” by increasing taxes on the wealthy and championing a “new New Deal”. Trump championed decreasing taxes on businesses and “smarter” trade deals.
Foreign policy: The Islamic State and the Syrian Civil War and its consequences were partisan issues. Trump caused alarm when he declared that he was comfortable with arming Saudi Arabia and South Korea with nuclear weapons, and took an aggressive stance against China and the European Union. Clinton argued that her years of experience as America’s Secretary of State and her pragmatic foreign policy made her the better candidate.
Abortion: The divisive issue of abortion was brought to the forefront on two main occasions. First, during the Republican primaries when Trump said that women who had undergone abortion should “be punished”. Second, during the third Presidential debate when Trump and Clinton had a heated argument over late-term abortions and Roe vs. Vade.
The fall of the Christian Right: The nomination of Donald Trump signalled the end of family-centric, Bible-crazy conservatism in America. The Republican Party has been the haven of Christian conservatives for decades – but the nomination of thrice-married, politically incorrect, outspoken, Bible-non-referencing, overtly-capitalist, women-mocking businessman and television personality Donald Trump was the last nail on the coffin of the mainstream religious Right.
Diversification of the American electorate: The 2016 election is the most diverse election in US history with one in three eligible voters either black, Asian, Hispanic or another ethnic or racial minority. As such, race relations was a widely discussed theme.
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