Note: The purpose of this column is not to advocate for one political party or another, but for students to learn more about the election and the knowledge and views of the professors who share information in regards to their expertise on the matter.
Dr. Dan Koev is originally from the country of Bulgaria, which is located in southeastern Europe and famous for being one of the oldest countries in the world. While in Bulgaria, his parents were organizers for the First Democratic Party there post-communism, but they immigrated to the United States when he was twelve years old. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Political Science, he was offered a job in 2014 to teach Government and International Relations at Regent. His specific interests regarding politics include comparative politics and international relations.
Question: What is your biggest concern regarding the upcoming election?
Answer: “My biggest concern is probably the fiscal health of this country. I feel like both parties have been tremendously irresponsible fiscally… [Both parties] have done a poor job of setting spending levels at a sustainable level. We’ve had trillions of dollars added to the federal deficit over the past decade or so, so that’s something that I’m personally concerned about.
I’m not too concerned about [mail-in voting]. I think there’s always been the option to vote in absentee circumstances. I know that there have been some questions about [the] U.S. Postal Service and its ability to handle the extra demand this time around. If we have a lot of mail-in ballots processed on election night [and] if it’s a really close election—that’s something that worries me because I could see this as a legal battle that’s protracted for weeks… If we have that sort of ambiguity, if there’s no clear winner on election night, I could see maybe some civil disturbances, maybe possibly violence, so that’s one concern I have. I don’t have concerns that we’re never going to know who won the election or… [that] people aren’t going to be able to vote. I have more of a concern about if we can count those ballots by election night.”
From your perspective as an international relations professor, what are some important ways that U.S. elections differ from other democratic countries?
“Well… one of them is that we utilize these ‘single-member districts’ and we’re hardly unique in that, in having that ‘winner-take-all’ electoral system. But that is something that distinguishes us from a lot of a lot of other countries [because] proportional representation is more common.
I would say another thing that distinguishes the U.S. [is that] we don’t give our parties as much power to choose the candidates that contest [in] elections. So in European politics, [they] typically have party lists, so the party will decide the candidates and then depending on how many votes we get, maybe the top six, or the top seven, top eight are going to be elected. In [the] United States, you have a primary process; it’s more competitive… I think in other countries parties tend to hold more control over legislators, where, here, individual legislators are more likely to vote their conscience and to show some political independence.”
What are some particular foreign policy issues that you think will be impacted by the outcome of the election?
“There’s a lot, I think. One, for example, is American involvement in the Middle East. So the Trump Administration has very strongly allied itself with… the Israelis and parts of the Arab world versus Iran. You see this with some other historic peace deals that have been signed recently between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors in the region. So he’s been able to facilitate, I think, better relations between Israel and some of its Arab neighbors in light of this looming threat of a nuclear Iran. So I really wonder what’s going to happen under a Biden presidency. Is the United States going to reorient itself and maybe try to distance itself from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and then take a more conciliatory approach toward Iran?
I think China would certainly prefer to have Biden as president to Trump, I think [Biden is] likely to take a less antagonistic attitude, de-escalate the trade wars with China, maybe be less aggressive in impressing China on human rights abuses. Russia probably would prefer Trump… I think [Vladimir Putin] has probably enjoyed the chaos and the enmity between the left and the right in this country over the past four years because of how polarizing a figure Trump is. So, I think what Russia is rooting for is that we don’t return to some sort of like [a] more conciliatory relationship between the parties. Whatever the outcome of the election is, I think he would prefer that we just keep screaming at each other and keep this pattern of dysfunction.”
Do you think that the open SCOTUS seat will affect the results of the election?
“I don’t think it’s going to be terribly consequential because we do live in a country where most people have already made up their mind… [Voters are] already pretty energized and motivated, it seems, so I doubt that that’s going to be the deciding factor that could swing the election from one candidate to another. It’s more about [the] long term consequences of that, and is it going to lead to court packing? This is going to lead to just even greater animosity between the parties down the line.”
How do you think that the public perception of how Trump has handled COVID-19 will affect the results, if it will?
“I think it will affect the results in favor of Biden… If you break it down into partisan lines, people who are Republican are going to take a generally positive view of how Trump’s handled the crisis. Democrats are going to take a negative view. But I think for those people who are on the fence… I think they’re going to tend to view his handling of that more and more negatively… These are unfortunate circumstances for him regardless, even if he had played this perfectly—which I don’t think he has—but if you calculate it perfectly, he would have still suffered in the election.”
How do you think either candidate’s election will affect America’s social and political climate?
“I’m concerned that no matter what happens… half of the country is going to feel like they’ve been betrayed—like something profoundly unfair has happened. Whether or not there have been any sort of unfair activities electorally, I think there’s going to be a period of grievance. Specifically, how would another Trump term affect this country? I think the president would see it as vindication for all these policies, and it’s going to just encourage him to go full steam ahead on continuing down the same line… I think we will [be] headed toward four years of gridlock; I don’t think he’s going to have the congressional support because I certainly don’t think the Republican Party is going to flip the House. It’s possible they might even lose the Senate.
If Biden wins and the Democrats are able to take the Senate and maintain the House, then I’m a little bit concerned about how much of the Bernie Sanders agenda is going to be pushed through, you know, are we going to see a push for the Green New Deal? Are we going to have a push for more Democratic Socialism?… If Biden becomes president, and if the Senate is controlled by Democrats, do they actually go ahead and follow through on some of these threats that they’re making right now?”
Who do you think will win the 2020 election?
“I think it’s probable that Biden will win. I think the Senate is 50/50 right now [and] I think the Democrats [will] win the House. I say this cautiously because, obviously at this point last election… it seemed like Hillary Clinton was running away with it. I do think the situation is a little bit different today. I think you have fewer people on the fence than you did in that election, so there’s less opportunity for something dramatic to happen between now and election time… I think [Trump’s] path to victory is more difficult than Biden’s. There’s a lot that can go wrong for him compared to Biden.”
How does your experience in obtaining citizenship affect how you participate in the voting process?
“I think that it makes me value the act of political participation more. I do think it’s important for me to vote because I wasn’t born with citizenship—it was something that I was uniquely given; a privilege of having [because there are] very long odds of winning a green card [when] applying from Bulgaria. It’s really kind of a blessing from God, I believe, and so I want to reciprocate that in some way and I think part of that comes with voting regularly and being an informed participant in American politics.”
What are some factors you tend to keep in mind when voting?
“There are two things. First I would say it’s the character [of] that individual, whether they share my values or not necessarily, but is this the candidate who generally seems to be desirous of what is in the public good rather than private gain? Is he someone who is respectful of others, generally speaking, even when he disagrees with them? Is he someone who is civil in his tone and his discourse? Does he generally seem to be an honest person? Is he arguing in good faith? So I think there [are] all those types of personal character traits [to consider].
In addition to that… Does this person share my faith values and also my political values? Do they have a fairly similar worldview to the one that I possess? And I really think it’s those two factors. Everything else after that is of secondary nature. It comes down to character, and does this person embody the values that I happen to espouse?”
Dr. Koev’s final advice to college students and first-time voters is to “vote your conscience.” If you cannot choose between the lesser of two evils, consider picking a third-party candidate or even writing in someone. He encourages students not to betray their conscience or vote for something you disagree with on a fundamental level. Furthermore, Christians should base these decisions on the Scriptures and not merely gut feeling. Vote through informed knowledge of the Bible and “make a decision that your soul [will] be at peace with at the end of the day.”