After a tight race and four days of counting, Joe Biden was projected to win the US election on Saturday 8 November. Five of our writers react to his success.
“We cannot be complacent.”
The very moment Joe Biden’s victory was projected by the BBC, my social media feeds were filled with relief from my predominantly non-American friends. It’s clear that this election has been closely watched globally, with every conversation reinforcing how invested people are in the outcome. Amongst non-Americans I’ve noticed an overwhelming support for Biden, or perhaps more precisely, ‘not Trump’. The election result has represented a win for democracy and human rights in one of the largest global powers, but it’s important now to remember that this is a beginning, not an end.
We cannot be complacent. With Biden and Harris in the White House, we have an opportunity. Black Lives Matter was brought into the global focus following the murder of George Floyd, and the countless other deaths by the same police brutality, in what was a damning insight into our personal and systemic racism. We saw Trump utterly dismiss this outcry. Under the new presidency, perhaps there is hope for justice and equality yet – if we continue to push for it.
There is still work to be done
Biden’s mere acknowledgement of climate change’s existence must surely be a good thing too, likely leading the US to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and reach zero net emissions by 2050. But we should remember that Biden appears to have rejected the Green New Deal, a plan that aims to reduce carbon emissions and end inequalities and oppression, and both Biden and Harris are responsible for enforcing incarceration laws that have disproportionately affected black people, as well as perpetuating legal injustice and police brutality.
Can we trust Biden to lead the US better than Trump, protecting global resources and leading the fight for greater equality? Almost certainly. But we mustn’t assume we can be passive now he’s been projected the winner of the presidency. There is still work to be done.
“It is perfectly obvious what he is against; it is less clear what he stands for.”
Joe Biden’s success in America should please the entire world. It is a victory for democracy, a celebration of the rule of law, a defence of liberty and an expression of civil rights for all, regardless of background. Despite Donald Trump receiving more votes than in 2016, he will have been decisively rejected by the American electorate by the time every vote is counted.
That Donald Trump deserves to be removed from high office doesn’t make Joe Biden perfect. In 1994, Biden drafted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which hugely increased mass incarceration. Questions have been raised over his mental capacity for president. Above all, it is unclear what his vision is. It is perfectly obvious what he is against; it is less clear what he stands for.
That Donald Trump deserves to be removed from high office doesn’t make Joe Biden perfect
There is every chance Joe Biden will have to frequently compromise with Congress for any legislation to pass. Nobody apart from the Republicans wants the gridlock that blighted many years of Obama’s presidency. Compromise and pragmatism in themselves are not vices, as they allow a greater range of ideas to be considered.
Yet Joe Biden must frame an argument as to what his Presidency – his vision – is for the American people, regardless of how they voted. Over 70 million people, more than the entire UK population, were not impressed with his agenda. Biden must offer them a reason to support the Democratic Party and ensure a larger victory for his successor. Otherwise they will look elsewhere. While Donald Trump will soon be gone, his ideology is going nowhere. If the Democrats aren’t careful, they could face a candidate even more unfit for high office than the 45th President of the United States.
“Trump wasn’t just a cause of bigotry, but a symptom of a far larger problem.”
Thank goodness for that.
He’s lost. He’s finally lost. I am incredibly relieved. After nearly four years of chaos, confusion, and calamity, POTUS 45 has been voted out. He led what Richard Haass perfectly called an ‘adhocracy’. This is an administration that defended the far-right, that actively made life harder for Muslims and Native Americans, that discriminated against trans people. His views on women, on Black Lives Matter, and on climate change were disgusting. From Mexico border walls to coronavirus, these have been depressing times. Good riddance.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Washington, D.C. can’t be rebuilt in one either
However, we should all be careful about what happens next. Trump might have lost the presidency, but he still got over 70 million votes. He has changed America in ways that Biden won’t be able to undo in four years. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Washington, D.C. can’t be rebuilt in one either. And there will still be division, hatred, and discrimination, as there always has been. It definitely got worse under Trump, but let’s not pretend that the USA was all moonlight and roses four years ago. Trump wasn’t just a cause of bigotry, but a symptom of a far larger problem. From anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to police brutality, America now must deal with both the bigotry that the Trump administration caused or intensified and the bigotry that existed before him.
We must remain cautious, because when the next Trump-like figure turns up we’ll have to be ready. This election is not, and should not, be a return to pre-Trump politics. America should not be trying to return to some perfect past that never existed. Instead, Biden and Harris have got to take America forward. I hope they’re ready to do it. As for President Trump, you’re fired.
“The real victim is the American political system.”
Trump is yet to concede the election. No losing presidential candidate has refused to concede since the convention first began in 1896. The fact that such a long shadow has been cast over the election result by his refusal to make a customary speech shows just how powerful conventions are. In a country which prides itself on the rigidity and concision of its constitution, one wouldn’t usually expect customs and conventions to hold any great value.
Their importance in the UK is more obvious; our country has no written constitution and so conventions are vital to keep things chuffing along. When Boris prorogues Parliament, or introduces legislation without first putting it before the scrutiny of MPs, it takes its toll on our political efficiency and stability. Yet, here we see the enormous value conventions can hold in the US too. The concession is nowhere to be found in the pages of the Constitution and is essentially just a performance, but it is vital.
The concession is nowhere to be found in the pages of the Constitution and is essentially just a performance, but it is vital
Without it, the stages of the election process become muddled and disrupted. It normally allows a smooth transition from the public vote to the Electoral College vote and the preparations for the new administration. When the losing candidate doesn’t concede, all this is put under a sort of foggy caveat, hampering progress by preventing a line being drawn under this stage of the process.
Ultimately, although it certainly doesn’t help him, the victim of all this isn’t Biden. It isn’t even Trump, despite making him come across like a petulant child. The real victim is the American political system and the electorate who deserve better.
Biden “wishes to reengage with the world.”
Biden, a career politician, looks set to govern in a radically different way to his predecessor. One of the key areas his administration will focus on is foreign policy. He wishes to reengage with the world and reassert America’s position on the global stage, and doing this means ending the purported complacency and complicity propagated by the Trump administration.
Biden aims to limit the US’s ever-ready support for Saudi Arabia and put the Kingdom under stricter checks in terms of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This means ending US support for Saudi Arabia’s disastrous and cruel war in Yemen, which has left tens of thousands of civilians dead and caused a famine affecting millions. Similarly, while he has been a strong defender of Israel, Biden may take a less warm approach than the Trump administration towards Israel’s annexation plans and settlements in the West Bank. He could denounce them as illegal altogether under international law. How far, or whether at all, these would be done is uncertain, given how much influence the Kingdom and Israel have on both America and the world. Reduced support for two of the US’s strongest allies abroad is likely to be met with opposition at home.
However Biden’s America may represent itself on the world stage, it is bound to be radically different from Trump’s America
Trump’s tenure had no new wars or invasions started by the US, a sharp contrast to previous presidential administrations for the past several decades. It is unknown how similar Biden’s approach towards foreign conflict would be, although given his problematic support for the Iraq war, there may be some cause for concern. Biden has been harshly critical of Egypt’s human rights record, strongly warning Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that the country’s human rights violations would not be ignored by his administration. Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were the targets of similar criticisms prior to the wars in Iraq and Libya. Or, Biden could just impose sanctions on and increase diplomatic efforts in the African nation, rather than getting the US military involved.
However Biden’s America may represent itself on the world stage, it is bound to be radically different from Trump’s America. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen.
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