Saturday, December 4, 2021

American Challenges: From the presidential election to the Biden Administration

Jaime Nogueira Pinto

The 2020 US elections were one of the most tense and bipartisan in the history of the United States. The projections by most Polling Institutes and the media hinted that Joe Biden would win by a large majority – a likely reconquer of the Senate and the widening of the majority held in the House of Representatives – but this translated into very different results.

Amidst claims and suspicions of fraud in the presidential election – which will hover over the result given that a substantial part of the Republican voters are convinced that the victory was stolen from them – the fact is that Republicans did not lose the Senate and even regained seats in the House of Representatives.

Whatever the impression that will remain, or the value of the evidence submitted, the fact is that the courts did not pursue any further the appeals and protests submitted by the Trump team of lawyers and the team Joe Biden-Kamala Harris is now forming the new Administration and will sit in the White House for the next four years.

These are and will be difficult and crucial years, not only as regards American’s domestic politics, but also and above all in world politics. A world of pandemic and grappling with the post-pandemic political and economic effects: a world in which fear – of the plague, the economic crisis, unemployment, the move to the unknown – will loom over America and Mankind.

Biden is forming his team: the names pointed out so far, besides representatives of the East-coast Establishment and the Obama and Clinton administrations, and the concern as to represent the “minorities”, do not seem to represent major changes. In fact, in America, continuity factors generally prevail, even in times of crisis, in relation to rupture factors.

There will be – to the delight and relief of many – a change in rhetoric and form, with more diplomatically correct statements, more multilateralism and more nice things. But the reality is the same and the political substance will not be much different: the United States will have to manage the cold war with Beijing, in terms that it does not heat up, in technological competition, in the dispute of allies, and in the response, especially in Africa and Latin America, to the Chinese political and economic advances. All the more now that China is trying to speed up negotiations with the European Union before the invested Biden Administration responds to the advances of Brussels and there may be an anti-Chinese ‘Entente’ on both sides of the Atlantic.

As for the rest of the policies – and aside from a nice blink to the left wing and to the do-gooders, with the return to the Paris Accords on the climate – the American internal reality will play a leading role in the future.

The weight of the Trump electorate who, a man who despite the killing pandemic, a shattered economy, hostility from the mainstream media, academics, Hollywood stardom and lords of Silicon Valley managed to get 74 million votes, will factor in Biden’s decisions. Who knows if what granted Biden a short-term victory was an anti-Trump coalition that may be dissolved the day Trump leaves the White House. And Americans may no longer wish to be the guardians of Europe, nor the policemen of the world, nor to see industries migrate to China, a country they are highly suspicious of.

Trump’s behaviour will also be crucial here; if he remains on stage, using its popularity with the GOP bases to put pressure on the Republican Party, this party could split. If he chooses a low profile and a discreet role, allowing a new leader to emerge – a Ted Cruz, a Marco Rubio – then the GOP will be a major force in Congress and in the Supreme Court, and national-conservative America will have a clear role to play in the country and in the world even with the White House in the hands of the Democrats.

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