The 2020 election finally concluded

After hours of interruption by rioters breaching Capitol, Vice President Mike Pence and a joint session in Congress affirmed President-Elect Joseph Biden as the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election. The joint session of Congress confirmed his victory by acknowledging the 306 Electoral College votes, although various Republican senators and representatives objected to the election results in some states. After debates in separate chambers at each objection, the majority of the joint session still voted to uphold the results by the Electoral College.

Only hours before it also became clear that the run-off election in Georgia the day before had resulted in both Senate seats going to the candidates from the Democratic Party, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. That means that the Senate is tied between the Republicans and Democrats, leaving the Vice President with the tiebreaker vote.

In the News: simply chaos or an attempt at a coup?

What should have been a symbolic day when the USA were once again going to draw upon its centuries-old traditions instituted by the Founding Fathers, when Congress were going to certify the votes by the Electoral College, so far the proceedings are halted. The events are still unfolding, so we do not yet know the fallout. But Congress is evacuated, demonstrators (by some media called a “mob loyal to Trump”, others implying that they are terrorists) have broken into Capitol Hill and have entered politicians’ offices and both the House Chamber and the Senate Chamber.

The President-Elect calls it an insurrection and an attack on democracy in a meeting with the press. The President eventually released a video on Twitter asking the protesters to go home, but emphasizing again that the reason for their protests is justified as the election was stolen from him. On the day when Congress was about to certify the election results, confirming that Biden won by the same amount of electoral votes that Trump won four years ago. Still Trump claims, even today in a misguided attempt at calming the protesters, that he won by “a landslide”.

Is this the epitome of Trump’s legacy?

You can follow the events as they unfold in any news source right now, but for future reference a link to a BBC site can prove useful.

Looking back at 2020

In our last lesson before Christmas we brainstormed what has happened during the autumn of 2020, since we have discussed the events in class on a weekly basis, but not maintained the blog for future reference. We proved to ourselves that not only are we able to dig deep into our memories and remember the important events when we put our heads together; we are also better at seeing how events are linked, influence each other and how they can twist, turn and develop in expected and unexpected ways. The items below are the most important events of the last half year, even though we touched upon other topics as well.

The US Supreme Court

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on 18 September 2020. That started a race for the president to get a third justice nominated and approved before the election, ending in the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett on 29 September and her confirmation on 26 October 2020. The Democrats were none too pleased that the Republicans refused to confirm President Obama’s nominee 10 months before the 2016 election, arguing that the electorate should have their say in choosing the president who would get to nominate someone for such an important position. That did not stop the Republicans from doing a one-eighty four years later, nominating and confirming their candidate only weeks before the presidential election on 3 November 2020. Rather they can congratulate themselves on having confirmed three Supreme Court Justices during one single presidential term.

The US presidential election

On 3 November 2020 the US experienced record voter turnout. It took days to count and recount the votes, though by the Saturday Joseph R. Biden, Jr was announced the winner and for the first time in American history a woman, and a woman of colour, was elected vice president: California Senator Kamala Harris. The incumbent president, Donald J. Trump, has filed more than 50 lawsuits in a pursuit to overturn the election results in several states. Most have been rejected, some are still being processed. The two Senate seats in Georgia could not be filled in the November election, so they held a runoff election on 5 January 2021. That proved to be quite exciting, since the November Senate election left the Republicans with 50 Senators, the Democrats with 48.

Campaigning for the presidential election and the aftermath of the election has been highly partisan and with some unprecedented behaviour and accusations. The first presidential debate, for instance, did not leave either candidate a good option for the American electorate and the candidates failed gravely in both rhetoric, behaviour and appeal. Trump’s later comment to the right-wing organization Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” did nothing to calm matters.

The pandemic

Under the current Administration, Covid 19 has run rampant in the American society making the USA one of the hardest hit countries during the entire 2020. In October it reached the White House. Central politicians in the administration took part in so-called “superspreader events” both at the White House and at campaign rallies through the summer and autumn, all the while rejecting wearing face masks as effective. Well, the problem might really have been that many people in the USA do not regard Covid 19 as particularly dangerous the President even initially claiming that the common flu is more lethal.  

The UK has not got off scot-free either. They have had several lockdowns, central politicians have been affected just like in the US, and the UK are exhausted and tired from the restrictions in society, like everyone else. Additionally, they, like in the USA, are experiencing higher unemployment and a growing number of poor people. It has gone so far that UNICEF has started a domestic emergency response in Britain.

Congress in the USA has had difficulties agreeing on financial relief funds for their citizens as well.

#BlackLivesMatter

The year has seen many killings of and attacks on people of colour. It all came to a peak with the death of George Floyd in May. But many Black people have been killed both before and after, in intentional and accidental attacks, by civilians and police alike. During the summer and autumn of 2020 there have been several attacks on police headquarters, many demonstrations and protests, more violent than non-violent, and the national guard has been sent to help (or incite) in many affected areas.

Brexit

After years of negotiations and changing Cabinets thrice since the 2016 Brexit referendum, the UK and the EU finally agreed on an exit deal in December. The deal was officially approved by both Houses of Parliament on 31 December 2020, ensuring soft Brexit and not a no-deal hard Brexit.

The British monarchy

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex stepped down as senior members of the royal family in 2020. They also left the UK and moved to California. The Duke is still the sixth in line to the throne.

America burning

The brutal killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis has led to days of unrest and riots. While most demonstrations are peaceful, some are also out of control and resulting in looting and violent behavior. What is going on in America? What is president Trump doing to deal with the situation? Read up or watch recent news stories to get an update. Look at the following article for a discussion on how this would have been portrayed in the news had it happened somewhere else:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/05/29/how-western-media-would-cover-minneapolis-if-it-happened-another-country/?fbclid=IwAR010KdADTd_il3yvzPcoDxJKpWKbLdOP5i0PjaLMnTh5WuWCZcWfurZIVc

Langston Hughes was a Black American poet who lived from 1901 to 1967. Read his poem “Let America be America again” from 1936 (in the midst of the Great Depression) and discuss its relevance today.

https://poets.org/poem/let-america-be-america-again

George Floyd 'riots,' 'violence,' 'looting': Words matter, experts say
https://eu.lancastereaglegazette.com/story/news/nation/2020/05/31/george-floyd-riots-violence-looting-words-matter-experts-say/5290908002/

In the news

Bernie Sanders has withdrawn his candidacy for the Democratic nomination, and the Corona virus continues to spread…How did the United States — the richest country in the world — become the worldwide epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, with one person dying of COVID-19 every 47 seconds? And how likely is it that Trump will be reelected in November? What implications does it have that Bernie Sanders is out of the presidential race? Can Biden beat Trump? And are female leaders more able to deal with the Corona crisis than their male counterparts?

Study the articles below and be ready to discuss these questions:) And then there’s Obama… maybe the most important supporter Joe Biden has…listen to this:)

https://www.forbes.com/sites/avivahwittenbergcox/2020/04/13/what-do-countries-with-the-best-coronavirus-reponses-have-in-common-women-leaders/?fbclid=IwAR2I7j4yDm7omdvlysnkOhqvOwiJmOOEIsHf7bVEdtABzAfZ2Yy3wjPWCX4#1a077c803dec

And look to New Zealand and PM Jacinda Ardern: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/15/world/jacinda-ardern-pay-cut-coronavirus-intl/index.html

After our group talks today, discuss (in the comment field below) what message Obama is trying to get across here, and how he does it. Point to language features and/or literary devices he uses and explain how they reinforce his message.

In the news week 14 – how the Corona virus affects the ones already worst off…

Here are three articles to read and discuss this week:

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/30/india/india-coronavirus-social-distancing-intl-hnk/index.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-51949125

https://time.com/5800930/how-coronavirus-will-hurt-the-poor/

The first one is from India, the second from South Africa and the third from the USA. After skimming through them, what do they seem to have in common? What do you think the implications of what is happening now will be for the poorest communities in these countries and others?

In the news – Corona

Read/watch these two articles/videos about the strain on the health care system in the UK and the USA due to corona.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/22/uk/boris-johnson-mothers-day-coronavirus-gbr-intl/index.html

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/3/16/21173766/coronavirus-covid-19-us-cases-health-care-system

How well do you think the two countries are prepared for what is to come in terms of their health care system? Write your comments below:)

In the news – read and discuss

On the topic of homelessless: In A-magasinet this Saturday (28.2.20) there was an article on people living in hotels in the USA because they cannot afford their own place to live… sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, only at first glance… The Norwegian photographer Monica Strømdahl has made a photo documentation of this, see picture below.

Ett av flere bilder i serien «Flophouse America», om de som velger å bo på billige amerikanske hotell på ubestemt tid. Dette bildet er nå utstilt på kunstsenteret Hennie Onstad og publisert i 2019-boken fra Norwegian Journal of Photography. Foto: Monica Strømdahl
Ett av flere bilder i serien «Flophouse America», om de som velger å bo på billige amerikanske hotell på ubestemt tid. Dette bildet er nå utstilt på kunstsenteret Hennie Onstad og publisert i 2019-boken fra Norwegian Journal of Photography. Foto: Monica Strømdahl

https://journalisten.no/dokumentarfoto-foto-henie-onstad/i-2005-sa-monica-stromdahl-etter-et-billig-sted-a-bo-det-startet-et-14-ar-langt-fotoprosjekt/374102

On any given night last year, 568 000 people in the USA were homeless, up 3 % from the year before, after a period of steady decline. About 37% of the homeless live on the streets. in cars, in tents or vacated buidings. The rest got shelter in temporary housing like for example cheap motels and emergency centers (A-Magasinet/Anette Aasheim: De som sjelden sjekker ut, 28.2.20)

  • What do you think are the biggest challenges of being homeless?

From the UK: you have probably heard of the artist Banksy, who uses street art to get his message across? Now there’s another oppositional voice critisizing the British establishment; Stormzy. Check out the article below:

Stormzy at the Mercury prize ceremony – of which he was a judge – London, 19 September 2019.
Stormzy makes cover of Time magazine as ‘next generation leader’ 
The rapper features alongside Greta Thunberg on the magazine’s annual list of young trailblazers
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/oct/10/stormzy-makes-cover-of-time-magazine-as-next-generation-leader-great-thunberg-annual-list
  • Had you heard of this artist & activist before? What are his songs about? He calls himself a “political analyst” – why?
  • One of the issues he addresses is the rise in knife crimes in the UK. In 2018 alone, 76 people were killed in knife crimes in Lodon. You can read more about that in the post from May 14, 2019 below.
  • Another issue is Grenfell Tower – What happened here in 2017?

Another person you need to have heard about is Alexandia Ocasio-Cortez. She is a Democratic Congresswoman from New York, elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. Her story is told in the Netflix documentary Knock Down the House (2019): https://knockdownthehouse.com/

Bilderesultater for alexandria ocasio cortez full speech religious freedom
  • Read this article and discuss the speech she gave on religious freedom and its implications.