The road to the Oval Office has been elliptical even before November 3. The fact that Biden was neither Bernie Sanders nor Hillary Clinton put the former 47th vice-president in a tricky position. On the one hand, he was seen by many Democrat supporters as being ‘too Republican’. In hindsight, Biden would have, indeed, been ‘too Republican,’ were it not for his Republican-Covfefe opponent against whom even Ronald Reagan may, in a stretch, be considered Biden-Rite.
At 77, Biden is scheduled to take over the US presidency as the oldest POTUS from the second oldest (Trump was 70 years and 220 months old on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017). Which comes to the other hand – making him not exactly poster boy material for even those Democrats who lock their doors when the word ‘Antifa’ is uttered after a pork roast and wine dinner. But once again, Trump has set a ‘new abnormal’ in his wake.
Yes, America will be divided – as a wag put it, half of it will be ‘ruled by a foreign country’. But America had already been primed to be split down the middle for a while now, the old prophecy of a ‘Trump in the White will be a more collected Donald’ never taking root, au contraire…
Perhaps, it would be a bit too simplistic to blame Trump’s ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light’ as the result of his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yes, the economy was holding up during his watch; yes, his ‘keep the economy open during Covid’ was one reason for that, especially when his supporters seemed to realise the great threat that Bunker Biden would have posed if he was ruling the roost. But this is a political ‘What if?’ not a real challenge faced by Biden. If in oppositional politics one doesn’t present simplistic oppositional tactics – Lives vs Livelihoods – while the actual equation is Lives and Livelihoods – where does one play these easy binaries.
The root cause for the fissures seem to be deeper, but prompted by the handling of Covid – which has resulted in the biggest numbers of votes in history coming out of the woodwork for Biden
Biden’s job will be not only to glue a fractured, hair-trigger nation — that may well be impossible without an alien attack uniting the United States — but also to push through his policies in what appears will be a Republican-jammed Senate. This is real pushback terrain, whether it comes to getting tougher on Big Tech buccaneers or plans to increase taxes to pay the proverbial piper in a Covid-hit economy.
But realists maintain that ‘a little pushback’ goes a long way, for a decent Blue-Red vintage to be made quaffable by the American palate. During his campaign, Biden repeatedly stated that Trump’s America-aargh was always an aberration, ‘It’s not who we are… not what America is.’ He will have to confirm that with more empirical evidence.
On the matter of China, even while his multilateral approach honed during his Obama Office days should actually make the US response against Beijing’s belligerence stronger and, importantly, more effective rather than just kung-fu against Fu Manchu, the removal of Trump’s Flash Gordon stance – and his wildly unpredictable foreign policy lurches that skittle both friends as well as foes – may help China formulate a better contingency plan in the ‘China vs The World’ stakes. Predictable stuff really can be predicted, after all.
On the India front, the Biden-led US administration will have far less oom-pa-pa, and certainly less handholding and hugs with the Narendra Modi administration. But thankfully, there is real common ground beyond admiration for ‘Swami Vivekamundun’ or admonitions about India’s ‘filthy air’. There is climate change and the gung-ho that both sides — Biden’s and Modi’s — have shown towards renewables, while easing the sanctions tap on Iran (read: Iranian oil). There’s also broad agreement on how to handle the leashless romping about of Godzillas of Big Tech. But once again, it’ll be China top of their minds, whether in defence equipment, or in security cooperation, or in digital data security.
What Trump leaves behind for Biden – and both the US and the world — is the chance for a visible restoration of rules, originally created, lest one forgets, to make things easier for everyone, rather than through the more damaging zero-sum game preferred by the Outsider from New York. What will be tougher is to sell those intended restorations to those who see the Biden presidency as the Unmaking of Making America Great Again – UMAGA caps are already being stitched in China. Which, however skeptical one may be about a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration, is ironically less inevitable than before.