Understanding the US Election

Yesterday saw the first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the run up to the 2020 US presidential election on 3rd November. The outcome of the election will affect people all over the world, so we have collected a series of extracts from Yale books to help you understand how the election works, provide historical context and answer the question of what happens if there is not a peaceful transfer of power?

You can read these extracts for free (see below), or if you want to purchase any of these books or similar titles about US politics from Yale, we’re offering 30% off until 30 November 2020. Offer available in the UK only, includes free P&P, details here.

A Brief History of the Presidency

The first extract is from Benjamin Ginsberg’s Presidential Government. It looks at the history of the six eras of the American presidency, the Federalist and Jeffersonian era, the Jacksonian era, the Civil War presidency, the Republican era, the era of the imperial presidency, and the era of the unilateral presidency.

How the Electoral College Works

The second extract is from George C. Edwards’ Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America. The US election in November is not for the presidential candidates themselves but for the electors who subsequently choose a president. The body of electors is known as the Electoral College and this extract explains how it works.

White Racial Resentment and the Rise of Donald Trump

The third extract is from Alan I. Abramowitz’s The Great Alignment. It examines how the key to Trump’s success in the 2016 Republican primaries was the dramatic increase in racial resentment among Republican voters between the 1980s and the 2010s that created a receptive audience for his racial appeals.

Election Meltdown

The final extract is from Richard L. Hasen’s Election Meltdown. It looks at what happens if Donald Trump does not not leave office voluntarily if defeated. It lays out a number of practical medium-term and longer term measures to deal with the perpetual threat of election meltdown in the US.

Related Reading

Honesty in America from Washington to Trump

Allison Stanger

“A stunningly original, deeply insightful, and compelling analysis of the profound conflicts we have faced over whistleblowing, national security, and democracy from our nation’s founding to the Age of Trump.”—Geoffrey R. Stone, author of Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime

A Handbook

Charles L., Jr. Black and Philip Bobbitt

“Bobbitt’s book engages deeply on what constitutes ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ It concludes that ‘careful, patient inquiry’ must denote a pattern of ‘wanton constitutional dereliction’ and establish acts of misconduct that badly undermine the very ‘legitimacy’ of the government and ‘seriously threaten the order of political society.’”—Greg Sargent, Washington Post

How to Rig an Election

Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas

“Democracy is in a worldwide recession dating back at least a decade, as unscrupulous and powerful people successfully abuse every part of the electoral process. That is the depressing message of this lively book. . . [Cheesman and Klaas’s] chirpy tone belies the thorough research and bleak message.”—Edward Lucas, The Times

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