The 2020 Presidential Race:
The Canadian Perspective on a Historic Election
By: Jessica Gearey
Photo Via The Boston Globe
Our southern neighbours have elected a new president. The 2020 election has certainly left a lasting mark, and Canadians are astonished by the current political climate in the United States.
As of November 15, 2020, the Associated Press reports a Joe Biden win at 290 electoral votes compared to Donald Trump’s 232. Even without decisive results from Georgia, which boasts 16 electoral votes, this makes Biden the 2020 president-elect. However, in some states the margin of Biden’s win is slim enough to require a recount, and President Trump is contesting the results in many of the states he lost. With Trump already having made unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud before the election, Zachary Fortier, a third semester Arts and Culture student, “expects nothing less.” Our interview took place before election night, and Fortier predicted that Trump would take an early lead in most states, seeing as the majority of Trump’s supporters would be voting in person. “Many states will begin calling Republican early in the evening, but because not all the votes have been counted or not all the mail in ballots have been received yet, there will be challenges,” he said. Fortier’s prediction was in line with what most left-leaning media outlets were anticipating, and they were right. On the evening of November 3rd, Trump was winning, but over the next four days, as mail-in ballots were counted, Biden built a steady (albeit small) lead in key swing states such as Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.
Even though the outcome doesn’t have a direct impact on Canadians, we’re all still inclined to watch it unfold. Jaden Bougie-Hull, third semester Law, Society and Justice student, finds it particularly interesting to watch as an outsider. He explains that Canadian politics simply aren’t the same as American; Canada doesn’t have a two-party and electoral college system. “Right wing-left wing ideology is not something we’re accustomed to,” he says, “it’s a very flawed system. But something flawed is more interesting to watch.” Brian Redekopp, a Philosophy teacher at Dawson, seems to agree with Bougie-Hull and adds that American news “is entertainment in disguise.” The American election really is treated as a reality TV show by some, Bougie-Hull going so far as saying that their politics are a joke. He adds that he thinks Canadian viewers tuned in to the presidential debate “to laugh at it. People watched so that they could make memes about it.” It seems commonplace, amongst Canadians, to write off the seriousness of American politics.
What exactly is so different about Canadian and American politics? “History wise, the way Canada has been governed has been less, I feel, capitalist than America,” Fortier says. He argues that a shared sense of community seems to have allowed Canadians to better understand community needs. The first example he brought up was Canada’s health care system. Although he feels that it’s hardly perfect, it is still better than America’s system. Fortier admits that like the United States, Canada has its fair share of controversial race issues, specifically citing the situation of Indigenous peoples. Redekopp and his wife, an American citizen, often talk between themselves about the disparity between Canadian and American politics. Like Fortier, he says that Canadians have a “more of a widespread understanding that individual rights need to be balanced with the greater good.” The outcome is “a more practical and less ideological approach.”
The final results of this contentious election left people flooding the streets of major American cities. People were seen playing music, dancing, and reveling in Biden’s win. On our side of the border there was quite a bit of euphoria as well. “I was quite shocked,” says Fortier. “I really thought Trump would win by suppressing the vote in key battleground states, but voter turnout was astounding.” Biden is currently the leader of the popular vote with over 77 million votes; the most for a presidential candidate ever. 72 million people turned out for Trump.The nature of this election is best understood looking at the difference in those numbers: a close call. “The conditions that occasioned Trump’s rise remain, and I’m worried about how much damage he may continue inflicting,” Redekopp says, but he prefers to focus on Biden’s victory for now. Bougie-Hull is relieved, but remains realistic about what’s to come. “These next 4 years will prove Biden’s worth,” he says, “I’m curious to see how he handles his power and authority.”