The upcoming U.S. presidential election is important for many reasons. Not only because, like all elections, it represents an important opportunity for citizens to make a decisive impact on the future of our country – but because this election seems to have more at stake than most, given the high profile and controversial candidates on both sides. We could potentially have the first female president in U.S. history or the first president to be elected to office without any previous government or military experience.
Needless to say, there are countless ways in which the outcome of the election will impact our lives and the issues we care about. In the days leading up to November 8th (or is it November 28th? lol), we’ll be figuring out where each candidate falls. Foreign affairs, police brutality/race relations, social justice, reproductive rights, the war in Syria, terrorism, relations with Russia, immigration, education, and the economy (to name a few). Among these many issues, as travelers, we also care about how the incoming president could affect the way we travel. We have to remember that our right to travel is subject to the rules and regulations of both the U.S. government and the governments of the countries we visit. Thus, the incoming president and their political agenda could impact our rights in this regard, for better or worse.
Here are three potential ways the election could impact the way you travel:
1. FOREIGN RELATIONS & THE POWER OF YOUR PASSPORT
When the next president of the United States implements his or her foreign policy, there will be an on-going series of chain reactions that ultimately impact foreign relations. The U.S. currently maintains strong ties with NATO/G8 countries, as well as our neighbors in both the north and the south. This could change if the incoming president and their administration make a drastic shift away from foreign relations seen under President Obama. If, for example, our new president carries out plans to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico (funded entirely through external donor, of course), it’s likely that the relationship between the two countries will be severely impacted. As a result, you might find your weekend getaways to Cabo or that bachelorette week in Cancun a lot less convenient and, at a minimum, a lot more expensive.
Americans currently enjoy a relatively powerful passport - allowing them to visit 155 countries without requiring a visa. Changes in foreign relations, for better or worse, could see an increase or decrease in this power, respectively. As economic and political forces interact to influence world affairs, the President of the United States will undoubtedly play a critical role in navigating these issues. Resulting policies and actions against - say Russia - will have drastic repercussions leading to anything from minimal sanctions to cyber/military retaliation. Translation: you may want to kiss your trip to Russia for World Cup 2018 goodbye. Alternatively, relations with Russia could improve as the President aligns themselves more closely with the likes of President Putin - in which case: Moscow, here we come!
2. SECURITY AND IMMIGRATION
The future of foreign relations, homeland security, and the fight against terrorism will all set the stage for issues around safety and security, including at airports and major hubs of transportation. There’s no doubt that the incoming administrations’ policies and attitudes towards security and immigration will trickle down to airport TSA lines and helpful programs like TSA pre-check or Global Entry. Not to mention, the procedures and time required to renew or apply for your passport.
What does this mean? If the new president moves towards tighter restrictions and regulations around homeland security, don’t be surprised when airport security lines and customs and immigration lines increase.
3. TRAVEL WARNINGS & THE WAY THE WORLD WILL VIEW US
Following the past few years of high-profile police shootings and the outcry of the Black Lives Matter movement (not to mention the subsequent riots calling for social justice) in major cities across the United States, countries like France, Germany and New Zealand have issued warnings to their citizens cautioning travel to the States. While on the surface it may not seem like a big deal, it implies that the way in which the world views us is changing.
The United States is constantly in or near the world's spotlight - again, for better or worse. When you travel, you probably come across locals or other travelers who are well informed about what goes on in our country, and are eager to talk to you about how you as an American feel about it. I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked about a certain orange Republican (I cringe every time). Beyond the election itself, the U.S. will continue to make headlines as high-profile judicial cases make their way to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, unless Congress acts to have the congressional hearing for Merrick Garland in the next few months, it’s likely that the incoming president will be the one to appoint and fill the open seat of the Supreme Court, left vacant since Justice Scalia’s passing this past February. This will in turn have drastic implications on the way the Court rules on cases that will impact reproductive rights, affirmative action, and immigration. As a decisive seat on the Supreme Court, the incoming justice could tip the scales in favor of either more liberal or more conservative judgments. And the world will be watching, just like they were last year when SCOTUS declared marriage equality nationwide.
There’s no denying that the upcoming U.S. presidential election will affect the world. While its impact on travel is arguably a very small piece of what drives our voting decision (if at all), it’s clear that these issues transcend more than just our ability to see the world and actually speak to larger movements around foreign relations, immigration, and social justice. As travelers, we serve as ambassadors of our country and, as such, have to ensure that we make our voices heard in an election that will inevitably decide it's future.
Disclaimer: this post is not intended to serve as a comprehensive political analysis. While all attempts were made to remain neutral, what is written here may reflect the personal opinions of the author. Sources are cited where referenced.