It would be naive to overlook or underplay the pull Trump has with several sections of Americans, and that is where the problem lies.
Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral Votes bagged, Joe Biden’s tally jumped to 279, nine past the requisite 270, and Biden elbowed Donald Trump out of the White House effectively; yet, as expected, Trump seems to be in no mood to concede, like most gentlemanly presidents would have and did, but Trump is neither gentlemanly, nor presidential. So while his conceding defeat gracefully could have been surprising; his wailing, growling and throwing tantrums like a child being pulled out of his favorite toy shop is hardly surprising, considering the man-child Trump has proven himself to be in the past four years of his presidency, the traces of which — hopefully — would not return to haunt America. But Trump’s disappearance from the center of American politics is unlikely to be the end of the polarization he was the result and symptom of.
We can rejoice in the victory of Biden and the ouster of Trump, but it’s a minor win, for this is where the healing promised by Biden starts, and the process is most likely going to be long and arduous, for the old ghosts of societal divisions have been roused and the near-healed wounds ripped open by the Trumpism practiced in the White House for the past four years under the outgoing President.
Watch: Time To Heal America – President-elect Joe Biden
The Problem That Still Plagues America
“Having peered into the abyss of autocratic nationalism, the American people have chosen to step back from the brink,” noted the New York Times, but “when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you,” said Nietzsche. The fact is that Trump drew — and also represented — the worst of America, including the deeply ingrained societal divisions and rising insecurities compounded by long-standing prejudices.
True, Biden has won, but it has not been a landslide despite the fact that the man in the White House has scarcely shown himself to be worthy of being anywhere close to the White House, let alone be the head of the Executive, like he has been for the last four years. Hence, the question is, why did Biden even have to work to secure a win? Why was it not a walk in the park, as it should have been with Trump’s monumental failings on all fronts? Well, it would be naive to overlook or underplay the pull Trump has with several sections of Americans, and that is where the problem lies.
Trump, from day one, was the beneficiary — and not the creator — of the problems that plague America. He exploited the divisions, widened the polarities and fueled the fires, but he did not manufacture any of them; they have always been there, lying in wait for anybody to take advantage of, if one knew how to, and Trump did. Biden’s win does not change that side of the truth, and the challenges that lined Biden’s path to electoral win attest to the fact that the ugly truth is right beneath the surface under a thin coat.
Trump, from day one, was the beneficiary — and not the creator — of the problems that plague America.
That doesn’t mean America is a lost cause; far from it, in fact. It is worth mentioning that Trump did not win the popular vote in 2016, and his victory margin was pretty narrow, whereas Biden’s win has been substantial both in terms of popular vote as well as Electoral College vote, which signifies a comprehensive win and a clear electoral mandate. But the Biden win, not being a crushing ouster of Trump as Democrats would have preferred, suggests that the problems — recent and urgent as well as thorny and deep-rooted — need to be addressed with a degree of urgency, if the return of another version of Trump is to be avoided.
Challenges For Biden
Biden inherits a massive economic downturn, together with a pandemic that has already claimed over 237,000 American lives. The dual drubbing is unlikely to soften anytime soon, and Americans know it well. So Biden would not be harshly judged if he does not magically eradicate Covid-19 overnight, or takes time to reinvigorate the sagging economy. But Biden still cannot slack on either front because the double whammy is causing a lot of misery and grief all around. Besides, there are several other things to be attended to almost as urgently.
Watch: What Joe Biden’s Victory Means For The Economy
Pushing changes or implementing new strategies, no matter how well thought through, may run into rough weather as the Senate is still dominated by the Republicans, and they are unlikely to make anything easy for Biden. While Biden has been a consensus-builder all along, there can be times when he might have to roll his sleeves up and get combative.
With Justice Amy Coney Barrett joining the Supreme Court, the top court has a 6-3 conservative majority, which is another challenge that Biden may have to face, if a contentious case reaches the Supreme Court for adjudication, and the best way forward as of now is to let the court be the same with the threat of court-packing hanging, which might check judicial adventurism to a considerable extent without setting a dangerous precedent of meddling with the Supreme Court for political purposes, for such a course threatens judicial credibility.
The Senate is still dominated by the Republicans, and they are unlikely to make anything easy for Biden.
The Trump presidency has been disastrous to America’s global partnerships as well as its standing in the international community. Be it climate change or the Iran nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA), a short-sighted Trump failed to see the larger relevance of these well-meaning and thoroughly thought out international agreements. Biden has to have the US recommit to its international promises and adhere to the international agreements it has signed in the past, especially those with global implications.
And then there is China, and its aggressive posturing against the US and several other countries. Trump’s China policy had little room for meaningful dialogue, and consisted mainly of chest-thumping and economic and military bullying, and while the acrimonious tone taken by Trump against China is very likely to soften under Biden, American policy towards China may not change substantially unless China makes some serious efforts. Since a lot has changed during the last four years not only in terms of US-China relations but also with regard to the global landscape, reverting to the Obama era policies might not be viable. Currently, there is strategic consensus in the US to contain, and if the need be, confront China rather than build friendly barriers between the two countries. China’s own confrontational approach to international relations is to be blamed, at least in part, for the US stance, and unless China makes certain amends, Biden’s being in the White House is likely to do little except make the verbal exchange slightly more restrained and civil, maybe.
So, unfortunately, Biden has so much to wrestle with all at once that it might feel like he was cleaning after a particularly pain-in-the-unspeakable-places kind of annoying kid. But, hey, you are now the President, Mr. Biden, and Trump no longer.