The British public are accustomed to receiving extensive news coverage from across the pond in the lead-up to November on a US election year. Our media arguably takes a far more active interest in this election than it does with any other country, even those who we share a more significant trade relationship with. Despite our potential over-enthusiasm in covering US politics, with less than a month to go until Americans head to the ballot boxes, I thought I’d outline four key reasons why the US election does matter for us.
These reasons are made potentially more significant by the fact this election contains two such dramatically polarising candidates.
As the most populous English speaking country in the world, US culture is heavily consumed all across the world, and this influence has often instigated changes in the UK. This was demonstrated after the famous Stonewall Riots of 1969 helped pave the way for the first UK’s first official Pride festival to take place in 1972. Similarly, the recent death of George Floyd, and subsequent US demonstrations, led to a sizeable boost for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in the UK – and, as such, a greater focus on what the UK could be doing to reduce racial inequality domestically.
However, recent rises in anti-immigrant rhetoric and Islamophobic hate crimes in the UK could also be attributed to a global rise in right-wing populism. Trump, Bolsonaro, Morrison, Duterte and Orbán are just a few notable right-wing populists who have gained power in the past decade – signifying a global trend towards the right of the political spectrum. Whether these leaders intended so or not, their agenda may have provided validation to those with extreme views, impacting political trends in the UK.
2) The relationship with Number 10
With Brexit now seeming certain to go ahead, and EU tariffs on Britain seeming increasingly possible, many economists believe it is more important than ever for Britain to develop its ‘special relationship’ with the US – by devising a comprehensive trade deal between the two countries.
There are pros and cons to both presidential hopefuls in cultivating this relationship. Biden would arguably be more likely to appoint a team open to considering fair and mutually beneficial trade alliances than Trump – who will assumedly continue pushing his ‘America first’ agenda. Although, it is unclear whether Britain would rank highly on a trade deal priority list under a Biden presidency.
Trump, however, has a seemingly strong relationship with British PM Boris Johnson and has expressed keen interest in pursuing a trade deal, albeit on his terms – as you can see by Googling ‘the chlorinated chicken debate’. It is unclear whether the former Obama administration Vice President would be more open to compromise.
3) The environment
The UK has seen a surge in people taking an active interest in protecting the environment, with a 2019 poll from The Independent finding that British voters placed a higher emphasis on the environment than on the economy. Both ends of the British political spectrum have prioritised climate policies in recent elections and there is not much opposition to taking drastic steps to make the UK more green. This is a much more polarising issue in the US, with Democrats generally proposing far stronger policies to tackle climate change than those on the Republican benches.
This is also reflected in the presidential candidates, Biden has made the reduction of US emissions one of his top campaign priorities, with Trump showing much less interest in the subject. He also famously pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, something that was viewed with dismay across most of Europe but met with both strong praise and harsh criticism back in the US.
4) The economy and stock market
This is certainly an important issue. With the global economy more intertwined than ever, economic trends in one country can have significant implications on Britain. Arguably, nowhere is this more true than with America, with those who can remember the 2008 financial crisis knowing the impact that the US Lehman Brother’s Bank collapse had on stock markets all over the world, contributing to the subsequent period of hardship in the UK and EU.
I left this issue until last as most people (especially those reading a commercial awareness newsletter) will already have a considered opinion on whether an economy is stronger with left or right leadership. Broadly speaking, Trump has placed his goals for a strong economy at the centre of his campaign, with his presidency having already seen some success in incentivising repatriation of US company’s capital through a dramatic reduction in corporate taxes.
Overall, the US economy remained strong under his leadership until it unravelled during the Coronavirus pandemic. Biden has announced his own plans to place a tax on firms who choose to manufacture offshore and to increase government spending in key sectors such as healthcare and affordable housing; as well as reversing tax cuts Trump introduced for the wealthy. However, Biden’s economic plans would be hard to implement without first winning a majority in the senate (currently controlled by Republicans).
By Joseph Spiby – University of Nottingham
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