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: Independent Contractor
Residence: Cook County, Illinois
Voted in 2016: Gary Johnson
Will Vote in 2020: Donald Trump
Top Election Issue: Economic Opportunity/Education
Will you vote? Why or why not?
“I will be [voting]. I think it’s very important to vote, being African American, especially, we were denied the right to vote for so long. My grandmother, when she first became eligible to vote, it was illegal for her to vote in the state that she lived in. So I just think it’s important as an American citizen, and especially as an African American with all that we’ve done, and had to go through to get the right to vote that I cast the ballot.”
What is your number one issue?
“I think at this point, it’s probably economic opportunity. And I kind of put economic opportunity and, really, education on par — I’m a big school choice advocate, I think, again, coming from the African American community where we, a lot of times have substandard schools and we don’t have the options to go to the schools — the good schools, the private schools and different things like that in our neighbourhoods— because it costs too much, and we have missed out on so many economic opportunities, because we haven’t been allowed to partake in them, our communities have been disinvested, and a lot of that is because of government policy.
“I put those two issues on par with each other, because first of all, if you have a good education, which means that you’re able to read and comprehend what you’re reading, you can then go out and access capital, and understand the mortgage document that you’re signing, the rental agreement, the car note that you’re signing, and things like that. And because we’ve been boxed out of educational opportunities, we’re not able to fully attain economic opportunity.”
Who will you vote for?
“President Donald Trump.”
Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?
“Many candidates in the past have talked about the Black community, but they haven’t done substantial things that are specifically for Black people. You know, one of the things that he did was permanent HBCU funding — every year you had to come back and different things like that.
“I think this ‘Platinum Plan’ that he’s coming out with — it has to be fleshed out a little bit more — but the fact is that he’s actually come out with a plan. Many of the things [that are] in there are just continuances, of things that he was doing. So, all the things that both Democrats and Republicans have talked about for decades, he’s actually started [rolling the ball] to do.”
Are you happy with the state of the country?
“I am not happy with the state of the country, I think we’re very fractured. And I know a lot of people like to blame that on the president’s rhetoric, but I don’t get how we could be so influenced by someone — you know, Washington, DC, is 1,000 miles (1,609km) away from Chicago — so I’m not influenced by what he says. My neighbour is still my neighbour — my friends that I grew up with who are white or Hispanic, Arab or whatever, they’re still my friends, nothing that a politician says, is going to change how I feel about my neighbours.
“And so I think that was something that was already in many of our hearts — this underlying division. It’s a hardness of heart. That’s why I’m not happy with the state of our country — we should not be at our neighbour’s throats, because of whose sign they put in their yard. You know, it doesn’t matter.”
What would you like to see change?
“I think I would like to see the president, whoever it is, return a little bit more authority to the states and focus on the states. The states have a lot of authority — our municipalities have probably the most control over our lives — so, I would like to see presidents and federal legislators say, ‘Hey, many of the things you’re asking us to do, your state should be already doing.’ They’re taking billions of dollars from you. They have the resources. They should have a greater understanding of what you need in your local community because they’re right there.
“I would like to see us return to our federal nature, where states and municipalities are best able to take care of the local needs, and us not [having to go] all the way to Washington every time we need something. I think that’s probably the biggest thing that I see, that’s a problem in our country. It’s just too big for the federal government to decide everything. California is not Illinois, and Illinois is not Texas. We need to return to federalism.”
Do you think the election will change anything?
“I’m hopeful. I would like to think that regardless of who wins, we know where we are, for at least the next four years, and that we will return at least as neighbours and communities that will return back to that neighbourly type of attitude that community-oriented nature that many of us grew up with. So that’s my hope. I know that’s something I’ll be working on — regardless of who wins — is just making sure I’m the best neighbour, the best community member I can be. And I want everybody in the country to do the same thing. We’re all Americans, we’re all here, we should love each other, and not be at each other’s throats the way that we are. We should be at the politicians’ throats!”
What is your biggest concern for the US?
“The economic fallout from the shutdowns and the pandemic, I think that’s the biggest thing.
“We know that [in] impoverished neighbourhoods, violence tends to follow, a lack of educational opportunities tends to follow. And with so many people losing their livelihoods, it just gets people in this depressed state of mind, and it depresses communities, you know, financially, of course, people losing their homes, and different things like that. I really think that’s the biggest issue.
“Also, racism sometimes follows that because you have people who want to look to blame someone — this person has taken my job and this person [did this] … so we have to get our political heads around the economic fallout from this pandemic. And I don’t fully know what the solution is to that, but we have enough smart people in these legislative seats that they need to come up with a plan and stick to it and push forward with it.”
Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you want to share?
“I think it goes back to what I said about paying attention to your local community, paying attention to what — in Chicago, our city councilmen are called ‘aldermen’— and so paying attention to what these aldermen, the city councillors, are doing, your county commissioners, your township commissioners, and different things like that, your state legislators. And then not just focusing on November 3, but they’re making policy before November 3, after November 3, paying attention to every law that comes out. Because they add different riders in there and amendments, and you think the law says one thing and next thing you know the rug is pulled from under you.
“So I would just really encourage Americans, and even if international people are listening, to pay attention to the laws that your government is passing, not just what the politician says leading up to election day and definitely in your local community because they are the ones who ticket you, they’re the ones who issue your driver’s licence and your state IDs. And they’re the ones who decide how you vote, where you vote, you know, as far as your local election authority, so it’s important to pay attention to those local issues.”