Joseph Whitney Smith, Capital News Service
RICHMOND, Va. — Election Day winners could influence key issues over the next four years such as the pandemic, police reform and foreign policy, according to Virginia-based political analysts.
Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden need their respective parties to land a majority in Congress. It’s the best way they can accomplish what they’ve promised on the campaign trail, said Stephen Farnsworth, professor and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg.
Democrats currently control the House of Representatives (235-199), while Republicans hold the most seats in the Senate (53-45, and two Independents). All 435 House seats are up for grabs on Election Day. Thirty-five out of 100 Senate seats are up for election. Pundits believe the Democrats’ odds of winning the Senate have improved in recent weeks. The party needs to pick up four seats for a majority, or three if Biden wins.
It’s unlikely that Democrats lose a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the chances are split that Democrats will gain control of the Senate, Farnsworth said. The next president will have a harder time getting legislation through Congress without a matching party controlling each chamber.
Politicians will continue to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic which has led to 230,380 U.S. deaths and 3,658 deaths in Virginia. Bob Holsworth, a political analyst and managing partner of Richmond-based consulting firm DecideSmart, said he expects Trump to continue promoting the reopening of the economy and schools. Trump also is likely to continue downplaying the COVID-19 crisis, Holsworth said.
Trump will likely continue to sideline expert opinions on the pandemic’s impact, Holsworth said. Since the pandemic began Trump has publicly criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator.
If Biden wins the election, Holsworth said Americans can expect a different COVID-19 strategy.
“You’ll probably see sort of an empowerment of people like Dr. Fauci,” Holsworth said. “You’re going to see decisions that are going to be based on what he considers to be the basic science in this manner.”
A vaccine must be free to the public whether or not an individual is insured, Biden said during a campaign rally in Wilmington, Delaware.
“It will still be many months before any vaccine is widely available and we need a president who will take responsibility for making sure it gets to every single person in this country in a way that is equitable and accountable,” Biden said.
Trump’s administration announced agreements just weeks before the election with CVS and Walgreens to provide COVID-19 vaccines to residents of long-term care facilities with no out-of-pocket costs.
Biden will attempt to find balance between social justice and law and order, Holsworth said. Biden is walking a line between progressive activists who want to implement police reform and individuals that believe reform is not necessary, he said.
If Biden wins with a democratic majority in both the House and Senate, expect a shift in police reform, Farnsworth said.
Biden doesn’t support defunding the police, but he advocates giving police departments resources to implement reform.
“I’ve long been a firm believer in the power of community policing — getting cops out of their cruisers and building relationships with the people and the communities they are there to serve and protect,” Biden said in an opinion piece published in June.
He seeks to provide $300 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS program, which seeks to advance community policing.
Trump touts the passage of the First Step Act under his administration, which eliminates excessively long sentences and lowers the mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offences from 20 to 15 years.
Over the summer, Trump enacted an executive order that bans law enforcement’s use of chokeholds unless a police officer’s life is at risk.
The Trump administration also provided $98 million in grants to hire 800 community policing officers. The majority of that money was flagged for jurisdictions that assist with federal efforts to detain undocumented immigrants, Newsweek reported.
If re-elected the Trump administration’s foreign policy will mimic the previous four years, Farnsworth said. Trump’s foreign policy promotes the reassertion of American sovereignty and the independence and right of nations to determine their own futures.
The current president promotes increased military pay and the idea of “peace through strength.” The Congressional Research Service, a federal legislative branch agency, reported recently that Congress must assess if the role of the U.S. in the world has changed. The report details how Trump critics and supporters each have differing views on the current administration’s actions and the U.S. role in the world.
The agency stated that a change in the U.S. role could “have significant and even profound effects” on national security, freedom and prosperity. Such consequences could affect policy with allies, defense plans and programs, trade and international finance, foreign assistance and human rights.
Expect more alliances with countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia if Trump is re-elected, Farnsworth said.
“You might see changes in alliances where he has criticized Europe and the fact that there are U.S. troops in South Korea,” Holsworth said.
The president will continue to push toward pulling away from traditional alliances, such as the World Health Organization and furthering alliances with Russia President Vladimir Putin, he said.
Holsworth and Farnsworth said that Biden would attempt to re-strengthen relationships with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, an alliance between 30 North American and European countries. NATO was originally established to help deter and counter attempts by the Soviet Union (now Russia) to dominate influence in Eurasia. Trump has called on NATO support this year, in the Mideast.
Political experts also said that Biden would rejoin the 2015 Paris climate agreement, a collective of countries working to combat climate change. Trump officially announced last year the U.S. withdrawal from the 189-country pact and the official exit is the day after the election, the AP reports.
Other sharp policy divides between candidates include immigration, expanding the Affordable Care Act, and financial regulation.
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.