US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.
Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement, and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.
As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.
Occupation: Assistant Kindergarten Teacher
Residence: Fairfax County, Virginia
Voted in 2016 for: Hillary Clinton
Will Vote in 2020 for: Joe Biden
Top Election Issue: Implementing a progressive agenda
Will you vote? Why or why not?
“I will vote and I plan to vote because, honestly, I know every election, people say ‘this is the election that you have to vote in— it’s life or death,’ but seriously our democracy is on the line. It’s not an exaggeration! Donald Trump has already said what he plans to do to destroy our democracy. We have to take him at his word, because he has already attempted a few things such as sabotaging the postal service. I feel like if we want to protect our democracy, you have to vote, and you have to vote for Joe Biden. It’s not even a lesser of two evils argument – you have to vote for Joe Biden if you want to save our democracy.”
What is your number one issue?
“My number one issue is climate change. Of course, climate change is important to care about because it will destroy our planet if we don’t do something about it. But in the past, I want to say year or two, when we were first introduced to the Green New Deal and the Sunrise Movement popped up, that’s what really took hold of me and inspired me to try to make a change. Now I realise there’s actually a plan to save the planet – it’s not just an empty platitude of ‘we need to protect our environment’.
“Joe Biden, when it comes to climate change, he has actually made some inroads in that area. He has not signed on to the Green New Deal per se – I would love it if he did – but I feel a little more encouraged about what he wants to do for climate change and that’s what really makes an impact for me.”
Who will you vote for?
Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?
“Joe Biden wasn’t my first pick. Bernie Sanders was my first pick, and I got to vote for him in the primaries. But, obviously now we’re in the general election, and you have to let that go – primaries are over and you move on to the general election. And I’ve already explained why it’s so important to vote for Joe Biden. Not only is he a better option, but I also do think he very much comes across as a genuine person and very empathetic.
“And so I feel like if you get progressive voices around Joe Biden, he will listen to them, and he will take in what they’re saying. And that’s a really positive thing for me.”
Are you happy with the state of the country?
“No, I am not happy with the state of the country! Not at all! There are so many things that are going wrong right now – with how COVID was mishandled, with how police violence is being mishandled in this country – these are two issues that really pop into my mind, for things that are being badly mishandled. I know that if we don’t get Democrats – if they don’t take the Senate – and if Joe Biden doesn’t win, things will get worse. It’s possible for things to get worse.
“We’re not even at rock bottom yet. If it feels like rock bottom, we’re not there yet. We will definitely get lower if something doesn’t change.”
What would you like to see change?
“Medicare for all – that would be amazing! I know that Joe Biden has already said that he wants to expand Medicare, I think if I’m not mistaken, at 55 years old [60 years old] but we just need Medicare for all.
“Another thing is the Green New Deal. We need the Green New Deal to be introduced into all of our laws. We need prison reform, that’s very important. We also need our Civil Rights Act, our Voters Rights Act, to be passed again. It feels strange for me to say that because, if I’m remembering the timeline correctly, it was repealed in 2013, and that feels so weird to say because in this country, everyone should have the right to vote. And we know that, especially in this election, it’s not across the board an equal right for everyone – especially for Black and brown people.
“Those are the things that come to mind for me.”
Do you think the election will change anything?
“The election will change things, because this is a very important election. Joe Biden has to win to save our democracy.
“In terms of the issues I just listed, if they can come into reality, and become the law of the land, that can only change if Democrats listen to progressives and actually listen to the majority of their base instead of reaching out to the 10 or 20 percent of Republicans that are not voting for Donald Trump. Of course we need to care about everyone, but the Democratic Party, and even the country as a whole – even some Republicans – care about progressive ideas, so Democrats need to follow this line instead of being obsessed with being bipartisan or worrying about their donors.
“On that front, of course in the future, I want Citizens United to be a thing of the past, I want super PACs to be gone, I want our representatives to listen to us, the voters, instead of their donors.”
What’s your biggest concern for the US?
“One of my biggest concerns is our relationship with other countries. For a long time, of course, we’ve been allies with Saudi Arabia, and we have provided them with funding for their war in Yemen, which I think is atrocious. And I feel like that needs to stop. I think some Americans take pride in the US and say that we are ‘peacemakers,’ but in order for that to be true, that’s one thing we need to do.
“And another thing we need to do is bring peace in Israel and Palestine, because of our role as the US, we can help both of those countries and help them find that peace. There is a way, I believe in it. Israel has the right to exist and Palestine has the right to exist, and Palestinians don’t deserve to be in an open-air prison. They deserve to have their own country. The US is the only country in the world that could help bring that peace.
“I just listed two examples of things we need to do better at, because I think our foreign policy has really suffered, and that needs to change in the new year.
“We know [Trump] loves dictators and he loves the heavy-handed methods that leaders use – I don’t even know if heavy-handed is the right word – just brutal ways that leaders in Israel and leaders in Saudi Arabia conduct their policies. Instead of condemning that, he loves that. And that’s terrible for him to do, and that’s terrible for us as the US to be a country that, instead of condemning this type of conduct, we praise it, which isn’t right at all. We have to be better than that. That won’t bring peace, it’ll just make things worse. It doesn’t help anything or anyone.”
Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you want to share?
“I want to emphasise this again: I really want Democrats to listen to progressives. I feel like they too often ignore progressives and in primaries when a progressive candidate tries to go after an incumbent, they’re too often crushed. Now recently, we’re seeing a shift in that. We’re seeing some amazing progressive candidates like Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman, to name two, and of course AOC was the first progressive who broke through. Again, I really want Democrats to understand their own party. We should be the worker’s party, we should care about workers’ rights, we should care about everyday Americans instead of the one percent of the country that has all of our wealth.
On how her Persian-American identity has influenced her views:
“Speaking for myself, I have always grappled with my own identity as a Persian. I even remember my own family members, if I would introduce myself as ‘Iranian,’ they would say no you’re ‘Persian,’ because Persian is, in the words of Maz Jobrani, a “safer” word … when I was really young, I guess around 2003, George Bush made the famous speech where he called Iran “the axis of evil,” and I was young when that happened, but it still did make an impact on me, because I kind of rejected that side of myself for so long. But at the same time, I would constantly get questions from people saying ‘What are you?’ – they would constantly ask me that question… so that would remind me that I’m not … I’m not the same. I am in George Bush’s words, “the axis of evil”.
“And then of course, Donald Trump has made this 100 percent worse when he, at the beginning of his term in 2017, did his Muslim ban, he put Iran on that list. And that really impacted some of my family members – some cousins and my aunt – that just made all of our lives more difficult. It’s just something that I think a lot of Iranians – in order to survive and fit in – we’ve assimilated, and we aren’t, at least speaking for myself, we aren’t outspoken. But once we find our voices, we will scream out our messages and what we believe in. This election made me realise I have to speak out. I can’t be afraid of my own identity, because that’s part of me. A long time ago, I stopped caring to say I’m Persian to anyone who would ask me what I am. And maybe I’ll start saying I’m Iranian and see how they react.
“It’s definitely just another reason why Donald Trump needs to go. I’m not even Muslim, but because I’m Iranian, I’m lumped into that category. That’s not fair – even if I was Muslim – that’s not right, no one should be discriminated against, and it’s just despicable. If you’re an American, you’re American. Nothing else should matter.”