Uniting America, Biden’s priority

Joe Biden had never thought he would be sworn in as president of the United States in such a difficult situation. A year ago, in his third attempt to win the election, he set out to unite the party and simply turn Donald Trump into a historical anomaly. He aspired to close a parenthesis of transgressions, misrule and populist demagogy in the White House and leave behind the worst presidency of the 20th century. Biden was not driven so much by ideology as by the desire to complete almost half a century of public service, always defending the lesser ideas of the Democrats, with pragmatism and without great intellectual elaborations. The defeat of the Republicans on November 3 in the Executive and in the two legislative chambers can be misleading, because the country is stubbornly divided into two halves and crossed by dangerous divisions, not only ideological, but also racial, geographical and socioeconomic.

The United States suffers from growing inequalities, due to the combined effect of globalization and the digital revolution. Social mobility has stalled and the postal district in which one is born determines more than any other factor the possibilities of progress. Biden knows that he does not have a broad popular mandate to transform the country, no matter how much he has achieved a seven million vote advantage over his rival. Since he began to prepare for the transition, he ignores the siren songs on his left and has put aside the proposals of Democratic populism. The combination of widespread mistrust of democratic institutions, the spread of conspiracy thinking and extreme polarization makes his four-year presidency sterile. In addition, the veteran politician arrives at the White House with the right energies. He is aware that he only has to attend to one priority, begin the Herculean task of uniting the country, be the ‘healer-in-chief’, the leader who rises above the parties and takes the first steps on the long road to overcome a dangerous social division.

The urgencies to fight the uncontrolled pandemic with a clear strategy and all available means and to achieve economic recovery are inescapable, as well as to return to the international scene in a constructive way, to restore the pacts and to occupy the spaces after an isolationist retreat. But nothing is as essential as accentuating the symbolism of being everyone’s president, waiting for the Republican party to be able to curb anti-establishment movements instead of riding on them.

Before the arrival of the pandemic, Donald Trump had a good chance of being reelected. He had passed the first ‘impeachment’ or political trial raised and the favorable economic situation was propelling him towards a second term. The archaic electoral system provided for in the Constitution of 1787, favored him, thanks to the indirect election through electoral votes, which today gives advantage to sparsely populated states with a republican majority.

AFP

But Trump failed to fight the coronavirus, downplaying it and refusing to mobilize all the resources of the federal government. The most important question of the campaign was not the economic situation, severely affected by the effects of the pandemic, but the president’s expertise in managing the health crisis. One in five Republican voters hid their preferences in the polls and the result in the so-called ‘battle states’ or decisive was much tighter than expected. Trump decided not to recognize Biden’s victory and to fabricate a victimizing tale with which to continue leading the Republicans. 77% of them believe that there was electoral fraud, however much sixty courts have determined that there is no evidence. 45% approve of the assault on the Capitol instigated by Trump and think that the president-elect should not be sworn in.

Reuters

The responsibility of the outgoing president in inciting the very serious insurrection of the Day of Kings justifies both his incapacitation and a second ‘impeachment’ or his expulsion from social networks. On this last measure, the big technology companies could have made this decision four years ago. There was no lack of evidence of a Trumpist discourse in favor of violence, racism, discrimination against women, immigrants and the disabled, etc.. But these companies have waited for the political wind in Washington to change. The problem remains that the standards that these private actors use to limit freedom of expression in extreme cases are not clear. They improvise their decisions, sometimes due to external pressure, and are not accountable for their exercise of power. Today, the political debate takes place largely on social networks, but in the United States cultural resistance to regulation (and taxation), especially from highly innovative sectors, is something common to both parties.

However, the new Biden Administration must see further from the deserved punishment of Trump, who as Anne Applebaum claims will spend the rest of his life in court. Further, if the second impeachment succeeds, he will not be a presidential candidate in 2024, something that today more than 50% of Republican voters support. And that’s even though most of them don’t agree with his transgressions. They seek that their values, ideas and political preferences are represented and have a voice, in the face of the multicultural and more pro-state vision of the world of the Democrats, installed in the big cities and on both coasts. Lincoln’s party has been listing to the right since the birth of the so-called ‘Tea Party’, which seeded televisions and the digital ecosystem with radical activists. But in these weeks of transition, pragmatic republicans began to appear, moved by a liberal economic creed or by their membership in Christian churches, concerned with the growth of militants willing to move from boycotting the system to violence against institutions. These reborn Republicans calculate that they could lose many more elections if they do not attract more moderates and independents.

The new Administration must do its part to weaken post-Trumpism. The arrogance and sense of superiority of many Democratic leaders makes consensus seem impossible. Fortunately, Joe Biden is a politician who has dedicated his life to negotiating and reaching deals. It produces little pushback from many Republican constituencies – white workers, suburban women, retirees – and has so far announced a rather centrist government.

Biden combines well the traits of pragmatism and idealism that have defined the best of American politics since the days of George Washington. The election of Kamala Harris as vice president and possible successor, in front of other possible candidates further to the left, is another sign of political realism.

AFP

In domestic politics, the fight against the pandemic and economic recovery are his priorities. Two other issues will define his presidency will be the fight against racism and the challenge of creating better rules of the game for large technology companies. The Supreme Court, with a clear conservative majority thanks to Trump’s three appointments, it will block some of the policies pushed by the Democrats. But it won’t go as far as some portend. Its president, John Roberts, is called upon to achieve sufficient internal balances to ensure that the most powerful court in the world does not lose its prestige.

At the international level, the Constitution grants the president extensive powers. The turn will be pronounced, to rebuild the soft power or attraction of the superpower and repair multilateralism, without renouncing the protectionist tics already announced in the campaign. Biden will once again give importance to cooperation with allies – we Europeans will no longer have Trump’s excuse – and will launch a more rational and systematic containment of China.

Biden has promised that he will not be a Democratic or Republican president, but an American. Perhaps the most moving moment of the campaign was his identification with the spirit of President FD Roosevelt at the Warm Springs resort, an empathetic, optimistic, humble and courageous leadership. From these values, he managed to unite the Americans, get out of the Great Depression and win the Second World War. The new president will be right if he follows this inspiration in the face of such a complicated panorama. The real measure of a leader, writes Robert Caro, “is what he manages to do, taking into account the size of the problems he faces.”

The data

81

millions of people voted for the candidacy of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the elections held last

3

November in the United States. Biden will become the president with the most popular support in history on Wednesday.

74

Million votes, 46.9% of those cast, won by Donald Trump, making him the second most voted candidate in the history of the country, only behind Joe Biden. They served him to obtain 232 electoral votes, far from the 306 of his Democratic rival.

Vote by social class

In 2016, Trump won by prevailing among the middle income and tying in the high. Biden, for his part, has monopolized the vote of the poorest and the most numerous people with middle incomes.

54%

Voters in the center, who do not identify with Democrats or Republicans, opted for Trump four years ago. This time, the majority voted for Biden and only 40% supported the Republican candidate.

Race does matter

Although the majority of the white population remained loyal to the president until now, the margin of support was reduced. Biden, for his part, has been able to enlist the support of Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians.

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