The presidential campaign in the United States is coming to an end: There is just over a month left until Election Day. And quite soon, preelection tensions will rise to a higher level. The first televised debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump will now take place on Sept. 29.
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace will moderate the debate. Although Fox News has been known for its tendency to support Trump, it is no longer the most pro-Trump channel in the United States. Besides, Wallace is known as a principled reporter who has conducted rather harsh interviews with Trump. Debates are always a risky business, representing a challenge for the leader in the race and an opportunity for his opponent. That is why Biden must not make any mistake or react to Trump’s provocations and must remain firm. And Trump, without any doubt, will provoke Biden, as he must to narrow the gap between the two of them. Most importantly, as four years of Trump’s presidency have demonstrated, provocation is part of his personal style.
The Senate as a Battlefield
The appointment of a new Supreme Court justice has created a big fuss during recent weeks. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a heroine of liberal and progressive America, died on Sept. 18, 2020. Her death gives Trump the opportunity to nominate a new member of the Supreme Court. Moreover, the appointment of a new, conservative justice may shift the balance of the court to a 6-3 conservative majority.
Given the fact that the Supreme Court plays an extremely important role in the United States, this change is not an abstract issue, but an important factor that can determine what direction the country will head. The new judicial nomination has attracted considerable public attention.
According to the latest poll, a clear majority of Americans − 57% − believe the winner of the Nov. 3 election should select a new Supreme Court justice. However, when in 2016, Former President Barack Obama named a nominee to the Supreme Court more than six months before that year’s election, Senate Republicans refused to vote, insisting that it was too close to the election.
But Trump has the legal right to select a new Supreme Court justice without waiting for the election. And he did not hesitate to exercise this right.
On Saturday, Sept. 26, Trump introduced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court.
She was considered to be a favorite for this position among other contenders. Moreover, Trump had allegedly considered Barrett for a previous vacancy, but then decided to keep her in reserve in the event of Ginsburg’s death and to replace one female justice with another.
Will the Senate confirm Barrett’s nomination before Election Day?
The confirmation hearings on her nomination will be held in the Senate which holds 53-47 Republican majority. A unanimous Democratic vote plus four Republican votes against Barrett’s confirmation would block Trump’s pick, but only two Republican senators have said they will oppose her nomination.
Against this background, Senate Republicans are planning to start hearings on Judge Barrett as soon as possible. Democrats have no leverage to block this process. The best they can do to slow the confirmation process is to employ procedural measures. At that point, the oldest member of the Democratic minority and the Judiciary Committee, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would draw considerable attention.
Some believe that 87-year-old Feinstein is not capable of leading the powerful effort Democrats need on this issue. Others condemn such ageist allegations, arguing that Feinstein is quite capable of working vigorously.
Interestingly, in 2017, Feinstein crossed paths with Barrett during her confirmation hearing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. At that time, Sen. Feinstein expressed concerns about how Barrett’s religious views would affect her work as a judge.
Barrett’s deep religious beliefs raise doubts as to whether or not she can give priority to the Constitution and American laws over religious doctrine.
War over the Catholic Vote
The Supreme Court nominee, Barrett, is a Catholic. This seemingly unimportant information becomes essential in the context of the presidential campaign. In fact, there is a battle for the large Catholic vote.
In recent years, American Catholics have favored the Democratic Party. It should be added that the Democratic candidate, Biden, is also a Catholic.
He could become America’s second Catholic president after John F. Kennedy.
And for Catholics, the issue of abortion is a matter of particular importance.
Although this issue has long been part of the Democratic agenda, Biden has spent most of his political career avoiding public support for women’s right to abortion.
If Barrett, who is religious, becomes a Supreme Court justice, it would be possible to overturn the 1973 historic ruling that made abortion legal in the United States. According to Trump’s team, this could modify the political attitudes of American Catholics.
However, there is no answer to the question of the electoral consequences of an eager attempt to appoint a new justice before Election Day.
The current situation can be compared to the previous nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Conservatives believe that the fervent liberal opposition to his nomination has prevented Democrats from seizing a Senate majority. Liberals argue that, on the contrary, it successfully led them to capture the majority in the House of Representatives, undermining the Republican monopoly on power.
However, in recent days, Democrats have been urged to stop focusing on the Supreme Court.
According to many of them, this will only enable Trump to draw national attention to this particular issue, distracting the public from other important subjects, including those that caused a decline in his popularity. First and foremost, these include the persistent COVID-19 pandemic and the weakening of the American economy.
The vast majority of voters hold Trump personally responsible for not being able to handle either of these two problems. Yet, it is precisely these two mistakes that have given Biden the upper hand and led to his steady advantage in opinion polls.
Russian Interference and Preelection Disavowal
However, these two problems are far from being the only ones that have dominated American politics in recent weeks.
Time and again, Americans have heard Trump say that he won’t accept the election result. His refusal to promise that he would accept this result is a major concern for Americans because a peaceful transfer of power is an American tradition.
Moreover, in order to prevent voting by mail, Trump and his supporters have been attacking the U.S. Postal Service for several months.
And while there is nothing unusual about such a method of voting in the United States, Trump has put a lot of pressure on the U.S. Postal Service, cut its funding, and installed his loyal man, Louis DeJoy, as postmaster general on June 15.
External pressures, namely Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections, represent an additional risk factor. Numerous U.S. officials have already reported that the Kremlin, as it did with the 2016 election, is trying to interfere in the current presidential election. A few days ago, FBI Director Christopher Wray, confirmed that such interference was taking place.
Even though Trump does not agree with such assessments, there is no reason to question the reliability of national security information.
Finally, racial tensions haven’t subsided. The grand jury decision in the Breonna Taylor case, whose death was caused by the negligent actions of Louisville police officers, added fuel to the fire. Only one of these police officers has been charged with negligence.
The decision to bring negligence charges is a reminder of the unresolved problem that sparked the outcry.
We will soon find out which of these hot issues will become a matter of debate between Biden and Trump, and most importantly, how the first debate will change the political landscape of the United States.
The author, Vladimir Dubovik, is director of the Center of International Studies, and associate professor of international relations at the Odessa I. I. Mechnikov National University.
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