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The 2020 US elections: will immigration be the tipping point?

ByManvir Dobb

Sep 14, 2019

The US is readying itself for the 2020 elections, and as Trump makes another bid for power through the second term of presidency, the Democrats are going through a major policy rethink.

Both Trump and the Democrats have entered the 2020 elections knowing that much like the 2016 elections, this is going to be an extremely tight race; with opinions stronger and divide greater among the American public. This will make those all-important swing states both much harder to convince and more important in ascertaining victory. Two things that Trump has really focused on in his presidency is the economy and immigration. While the Republicans have provided more than 6.3 million jobs for Americans since 2016, many of them have been in the oil mining industry, which if climate scientists continue to be proven correct, is highly unsustainable. Furthermore, tax cuts which were aimed to appeal to the middle class have found themselves to be counterproductive since the damaging of ObamaCare; and America’s trade war against China only adds to the financial challenges by putting the economy into a dangerous position.

The American population has not looked past such wrong turns, and polls have shown him to be on roughly equal footing with Joe Biden in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin: without the aid of such states, Trump would not have defeated Clinton in the 2016 elections.

Therefore, with Trump treading on eggshells when it comes to the economy, he has shown an even greater focus on immigration than usual. The distant glittering possibility of a wall with Mexico which headlined his immigration policy in the 2016 elections is now being reinvented with more achievable, thus more threatening policies.

Highlighting the “border crisis”, Trump promised to deport “millions” from America, all while supporting the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s en masse deportation of immigrants who have been termed as “illegal aliens”.

With this in mind, the Democrats need to work out their own immigration policy if they are to legitimately challenge Trump and knock him down from his own fundamental foundations.

In these early stages of the presidential campaign, two Democratic Debates have taken place, with both showcasing a plethora of potential candidates rearing to go against the Republicans. However, with such a large lineup of candidates still contending, individual and specific policies have taken a backbench to understand where candidates stand on broader issues. None have stood out as prominently in both debates than immigration.
If we compare the 2020 Democratic front runners to those of 2016, it has become apparent that moderation is no longer safe or popular. While Joe Biden (former Vice-President to Obama and a favourite for the Democrats) advocates for a return to centrist moderation; as championed by Obama himself and Hillary in her former bid for president; a new wave of more left-winged Democrats is opting for a more hardline approach; in turn painting Biden as old-fashioned and past his expiry date. In the second round of debates, Biden himself stated, “Everybody’s talking about how terrible I am on all these issues.” This highlights how his claim to fame and hold onto Obama will not be enough to get him through the Democrats’ vote, let alone the presidential elections.

This time, hardline policies are being received with greater support. Sanders’ views, while seen as horrifically socialist in 2016, now present themselves as much more legitimate when put next to Warren and Harris’ equally leftist stances.

Immigration has shown itself to be an important and dividing factor in the next election because it ties in with other key contending issues such as the national economy and MediCare- for-all. Since the job market is growing in America, businesses have argued that what they need is more open immigration policies to ensure that the market continues to thrive and innovation remains in the U.S. Likewise Medicare-for-all, which has been vowed by many candidates, argues that healthcare is a basic human right and should be provided regardless of one’s ability to pay. The blurred lines come when questioning whether undocumented immigrants should also be deserving of this supposed human right, which while seemingly indisputable, is unwilling to be paid for when the money comes from the taxpayer’s pocket.

Biden’s fragility also comes as both exciting and potentially transformative for the Democrats since he was originally the favourite for taking on Trump before the debates took place. However, since their happening he has proven to be up against some tough contenders who are willing to face Trump with policies just as contentious as his own. This was showcased when Castro, another Democratic candidate when facing  Biden on the topic of immigration stated, “We need someone who actually has guts on this issue.”

Maybe this is exactly what the Democrats need in order to face Trump: equally big and bold statements. Alternatively, maybe it is a dangerous move for a country which is sliding further away from moderation, and more into the extremes of political polarisation.

If Biden’s moderate laissez-faire policies are taken out of the elections, then it means that there is a real possibility of the Democratic Party putting forward a presidential candidate with a more leftist stance.

Whether this is the right change, only time will tell. The 2018 midterm elections were defined as the “caravan” elections with Trump scaremongering the American population with the possibility of more than 7,000 Central Americans making their way north toward the US-Mexico border.

The immigration debate has not died down since, so this could be the topic to define the 2020 elections.


Image: via Hannah Robinson

By Manvir Dobb

Editor in Chief

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