US Election 2020: what are the implications for Britons?

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In the run-up to tomorrow’s US Presidential election our student reporting team aims to explore, explain, enlighten and  even entertain you on the race for the White House.


Peter Hayes, senior UoS lecturer in Politics.


BRITONS have heard that a new Trump victory could be bad news for their country – but a senior University of Sunderland academic says: “They have nothing to fear about the results of the American election.”

Many Britons will watch with great apprehension on Tuesday night. But why should they care so much about who is going to live in the White House for four years?

We asked Dr Peter Hayes, senior lecturer in Politics at University of Sunderland, to take us through the possible implications.

“The power structure is not going to change that much, so I don’t think Britons should be worried too much about who wins,” he said.

“The United States have had a quite active foreign policy in the 20th Century, particularly after 9/11, so foreign policy might change if we see a change of leadership. The US has had a quite contentious policy with China in the last few years, but this might change.

“They have had a rocky relationship with Russia but, again, that might change … and it could get even more rocky with Biden.”


SR: Recent polls show that only 19 per cent of Britons have confidence in Trump – what’s your view?

PH: “Donald Trump gets pretty negative press. He brings it upon himself with the constant lying and arrogance, so I’m really not surprised people in this country don’t trust him.”


SR: Diplomats are warning about the deep meaning of a new victory for Trump. If the first time round, people “gave him a chance” to see what he could do, electing him again could reveal a lot more about the general feeling in the American population.

PH: “It seems unlikely that he will be elected again. Between Trump and Biden there is now a big gap. Saying that, I never thought he was going to be elected the first time.

“Of course, it will come down to what happens in key states.

“I am not totally against Trump. He hasn’t fought any wars. America has been quite belligerent, especially after 9/11. The Democrats have been trying to get to Trump by accusing him of attempting a better relationship with Russia. I think Biden’s corrupt relationship with Ukraine is bad too.

“Internationally, I think Trump has been OK, and he made genuine efforts to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula. I am not a fan of Trump, but I don’t think he is a scaremonger.”


SR: If Trump wins, could this be seen as a new wave of populism?

PH: “There are two kinds of rival populism going on. Covid has stimulated a kind of an alternative populism.

“Trump is a kind of archetypal male charismatic populist: with coronavirus, we have seen the appearance of a more archetypal female type of nurturing and community-based form of populism.

“These two forms are in a sort of tension with each other, and the female version has become the emblematic figure of the Covid battle, like Nicola Sturgeon, Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel.

“But whether Trump wins or loses, this won’t go away because there are too many people that respond sympathetically and become engaged with populism.”


SR: Could the historical ‘connecting’ role of the UK between America and Europe be compromised by Brexit?

PH: “Britain’s choice, assuming it’s definitely leaving the European Union, is to either become a satellite of the US or to become a satellite of China or, as I hope, to decide to stay in the EU – and those three choices are not really going to be that much affected by whoever gets in the White House.

“The power relationships are going to be the same. We have these three big power blocks in the world and we’ve got to align ourselves with one of them.”


SR: Do you think Boris Johnson is going to wait until the results of the American election before putting an end to his relationship with Europe?

PH: “I’m hoping that, if he has any sense, he will rethink his exit strategy. Of course, he said he would never do that, but usually what he says is different from what he does.

“So I hope that he will consider at least a delay.

“Otherwise, come January, it’s going to be a big mess. I don’t think ideologically he was ever committed to Brexit, he just rode the popularity that gave him. This gives me hope that his pragmatism may enable him to engineer some form of soft Brexit.”


SR: What if Trump doesn’t concede?

PH: “I don’t think that any branch of the American government will let him get away with it.”

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