Biden in, Trump out: America’s revolving door democracy wins

For nearly four days America, nay the world, held its breath waiting for the November 3 US presidential election results to become public. The nerve-wrecking suspense was finally over just before mid-day, November 7, when President Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden, clinched his birth place, Pennsylvania’s, 20 electoral votes to cross the finish line.

Interestingly, Trump was caught, wrong-footed, on a Golf course when the news of Biden’s triumph broke to the world.

However, Donald Trump, the Reality-Show Television presenter who became accidental president in 2016, is still dragging his feet on conceding to Biden. As of the writing of this column, Trump is still insisting that his rival has “stolen” the election from him, while petulantly threatening to take his grievances to the US Supreme Court—which he has carefully padded with justices of his choice and his ilk to deliver to his whims in such a contingency.

Donald Trump’s presidency is ending exactly the way it had begun: by dividing and polarising the American landscape.

From his first moment in the Oval Office, Trump never was president of all Americans. He refused to grow out of his parochialism of constantly feeding the nihilistic agenda of white supremacists who felt threatened by the fast-changing demographic map of America in favour of people of colour detested by Trump’s paranoid ‘red neck’ aficionados. Trump never lifted a finger to bridge the yawning divide between his supporters and those he regarded as ‘enemies.’

Donald Trump’s presidency is ending exactly the way it had begun: by dividing and polarising the American landscape.

Trump’s disruptiveness wasn’t confined to the home front; his ‘America First’ shibboleth became his alibi to disparage America’s traditional allies and cast America’s international commitments and obligations to the wind. He brazenly bamboozled NATO allies, summarily pulled out of the Paris Accord on climate-change, unilaterally repudiated the Nuclear Accord with Iran which his predecessor, Obama, had painstakingly crafted and pulled out of a multilateral deal on economic cooperation in Asia and the Pacific.

With unabashed contempt for Palestinians, groaning under the Israeli yoke, Trump unceremoniously moved the American Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in violation of international law and US obligations to them.

But Trump touched his nadir with his total abdication of responsibility to fight the Corona pandemic. More than any other act of omission, it was his abject failure in leading America against this pestilence that cost him the contest against Biden.

Even in the face of the horrendous cost of nearly 240,000 American lives from Covid-19, Trump remains unrepentant about his abysmal failure to lead the American peril in this darkest hour of their history. He only added insult to injury by venting his rage at WHO—for its alleged partisanship to China—as he threatened to cut off ties with it.

By contrast, Biden has declared fighting the scourge of Covid-19 his topmost priority. At the gala event in his native city of Wilmington, Delaware, to celebrate his victory, Biden announced that he will be nominating a team of top scientists and experts to prepare a plan to combat this pestilence.

Refurbishing ties with NATO and European allies would be top of the order, as would pulling out of America’s longest war in Afghanistan. But that’s easier said than done. Trump went through loops, prevaricating and deploying his bullying, bluff and bluster as a tactical ploy.

So, Joe Biden finds himself with a load of Trump’s trash on the doorstep of his Oval Office which he must clear before starting to heal the gashing wounds on America’s body-politic inflicted by “the worst criminal” to have ruled in the history of mankind, in the words of world-renowned linguist and social activist, Noam Chomsky.

The ‘divider in-chief’ Trump will be leaving behind a legacy of a country deeply fissured, racially and socially, and polarised to the extreme because of his myopic agenda of hate-and-divide. That would mean a big cleaning job for Biden who, with his tally of 74.4 million popular votes in his favour, has already created a unique history in the annals of US democracy.

Also, making history is his Vice-President-elect, Kamala Harris—of mixed Jamaican and Indian blood. She becomes not only the first woman VP but also the first woman of colour to land where she gets within a breath of reaching the pinnacle of American leadership.

At home, Biden’s first priority will be to narrow the racial and social divide and fill the fissures with alacrity. He has already spoken of being president of all the people of United States, not just of red (Republican-majority) States as under Trump. He has vowed to be a ‘healer and unifier’ and revive the ‘soul of America’ bruised by a paranoid Trump.

Overseas, in foreign policy, change will come but not so swiftly. Refurbishing ties with NATO and European allies would be top of the order, as would pulling out of America’s longest war in Afghanistan. But that’s easier said than done. Trump went through loops, prevaricating and deploying his bullying, bluff and bluster as a tactical ploy. However, Afghanistan is a can of worms and may tax Biden’s ingenuity and integrity as an honest and upright leader to the hilt.

Pakistan, primarily, and India, secondarily, would scramble for space on Biden’s foreign policy radar in the context of Afghanistan. Trump reluctantly conceded, despite his administration’s strenuous efforts to the contrary, that the Afghan chestnut would need Pakistan’s helping hand to pull out of the fire. But Washington, under Trump, made it also a policy plank to factor in India as a rider on a post-American Afghan apple cart, if it couldn’t weave Delhi into the matrix of a final settlement with the Afghan Taliban.

A more circumspect Biden may not be as chummy with Prime Minister Modi as Trump but US will, in all likelihood, keep promoting India as a counter-weight to China in its one-upmanship tussle with Beijing. There’s hardly any reason for Delhi to worry that the warmth Trump injected into their bilateral equation would evaporate under Biden.

But while relations with Pakistan may keep to their roller-coaster trajectory—with Pakistanis needing little reminder of the historical reality that a Democratic-led US administration has traditionally been less inclined in their favour than a Republican-led one, India may be given fresh assurances that cultivating closer cooperation with it is an establishment and non-partisan priority for Washington.

Indian leaders and policy makers may not readily admit it but getting cozy with US has a history of its own. At the height of championing the non-aligned movement in world affairs India wasn’t allergic to getting on Washington’s bandwagon, given an opportunity. One illustrious example of that was Pandit Nehru, the apostle of NAM, willing to sign a defence pact with the US when, under assault from China in NEFA, in 1962, he pleaded with President Kennedy for arms.

Indeed, a more circumspect Biden may not be as chummy with Prime Minister Modi as Trump but US will, in all likelihood, keep promoting India as a counter-weight to China in its one-upmanship tussle with Beijing. There’s hardly any reason for Delhi to worry that the warmth Trump injected into their bilateral equation would evaporate under Biden.

There’s, however, cause for considerable concern for the Arab Sheikhs—Saudi and other Gulf rulers—who felt so comfortable being in bed with a raucous Trump. The wheeler-dealer, now in retreat in Washington, was so blinded by his hatred of Iran that he would do anything to cultivate the Arab potentates and tyrants. One outstanding example is that of MBS, Saudi Arabia’s budding Czar, who literally got away with murder under Trump. He may not have that luck with Biden.

By default, Iran may get its fractured relations with the US repaired under Biden. He has hinted at restoring the Nuclear deal with Iran that was disrupted by Trump. A new ball game is on. A new dawn is about to break.

(Karamatullah K Ghori is a seasoned career diplomat, author and former ambassador of Pakistan to several countries (not India), who has had a ringside view of history. He is now based in Canada.)