Joe Biden and hope for a different democracy

Published : Tuesday, 10 November, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 278
Former vice-president Joseph Robinette Biden Jr has been elected the 46th president of the United States after a battle of votes. He has defeated President Trump to become the next president of the United States and received the record number of votes on his way to the US presidency. With more than 75 million votes, Joe Biden broke the record previously set by President Barack Obama in 2008. While we welcome the new president of one of the greatest superpowers of the world and one of the largest economies, we must acknowledge the countless challenges of the near future, which might change the world as we know.

The 2020 US presidential election was a run towards record turnout, with at least 159.8 million Americans voting. That’s the highest turnout rate among eligible voters since 1900. This has encouraged both candidates. Even in the middle of a pandemic, American voters came out in extraordinary numbers to make their voices heard. Biden also paid tribute to that fact in a speech to the American people on Wednesday by saying that this election proved that democracy is the heartbeat of USA as power flows from the people. But from different aspects, democracy does not seem perfect in America, the flag-bearer of democracy.

There are only two parties and two presidential candidates in the US presidential candidates. The American people never have the choice to elect someone outside of these two parties. Though there are few small parties, a presidential candidate from those will just be a stunt. Though the system is bestowed upon by the much thought about constitution of the US, it appears as a limitation of choice and scope, which is contradictory with the democratic concept.

Even with the two parties, during the US presidential election, party is never the concern; rather it is the person who is running for presidency. It was more of a Trump against Biden rather than the Democratic Party against the Republican Party. It was the same for previous US Presidential elections also. It is the image of the candidate which matters only. The media also contribute to the personality hype ignoring other factors.

Donald Trump lost the presidency in 2020 partly because he was a norm-busting political outsider who was prepared to say what had previously been not proper to say. Many, who supported him four years ago, were put off by his aggressive manners. Though everyone understood he would be unconventional, many found the manner in which he defied so many customs and behavioural norms disgusting and often hateful.  His stoking of racial tensions, use of racist language in tweets smearing people of colour, failure to sufficiently denounce white supremacy, trashing of America’s traditional allies and admiration for authoritarian figures definitely went against him, which are fully and only the characteristics of a person, not a party.

Moreover, Trump’s promotion of conspiracy theories, use of a lingua franca that sometimes made him sound more like a crime boss along with his creeping despotism. This attitude was seen after the election in his refusal to accept the result. A political problem for Trump was that he failed to expand his support beyond his core Trump base. He even did not try hard to do so, depicting authoritarian personality. After four exhausting years, many voters simply wanted a president – an occupant of the White House who would behave in a more conventional manner. It is actually the failure of Donald Trump, not the Republican Party.

Joe Biden won the 2020 US Presidential election undeniably on many solid grounds. His victory sets the stage for health care to become a high-profile priority of his presidency as he has sketched out a big health agenda – ramping up the federal response to COVID-19, boosting the Affordable Care Act, creating a new public option to cover uninsured Americans and expanding Medicare and Medicaid. Along with many strong grounds, he won because he was a reaction to Trump and also because he was a white guy who could connect with white guys while his alliance with Barack Obama helped legitimize him with black voters.

Perhaps the biggest reason Biden won the presidency was something entirely out of his control–the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only claimed more than 230,000 American lives but also transformed American life and politics in 2020.

Biden bet his political fortunes on the contention that Trump was too polarizing and too provocative and what the American people wanted this time was calmer, steadier leadership. Biden’s life is full of tragedies. He buried his first wife and his first daughter, had to bid goodbye to his son Beau, who died in 2015, survived two brain aneurysms and stayed in politics after two failed White House campaigns. All these tragedies shaped his image as a man of resilience and decency. Those qualities made him America’s choice as a president who could shoulder the grief of a nation traumatized by the loss of more than 230,000 citizens to Covid-19, with millions unemployed in an environment of intense economic uncertainty.

Biden’s victory means that Trump’s rage-filled presidency, powered by his nationalism, toxic racial appeals, ceaseless lying and attack on democratic institutions may come to be seen as a historical anomaly rather than a new normal. Hence, from all aspects it was a battle of images and personalities. Joe Biden and Donald Trump was the key, not their parties, not even their running mates-Kamala Harris and Mike Pence. Trump was a real example of authoritarian and arrogant leader. This actually hurts democracy.

Though the Constitution of the United States gives Congress the authority to remove the president of the United States from office, three United States presidents have been impeached till now–Andrew Wilson in 1868, Bill Clinton in 1998 and Donald Trump in 2019, but none were convicted. With the gravest charges of ‘Watergate Scandal’, Richard Nixon resigned before facing impeachment. This almost gives immunity to the presidents of the nation, which is considered to be the founder of democracy.

Moreover, the Electoral College voting system of the US is also criticized for its undemocratic nature as it permits the election of a candidate who does not win the most votes. The question remains if the current practice of democracy in US adopts autocratic practices. We believe, Joe Biden will be an excellent President as a subtle, caring and insightful leader–highly required to lead one of the greatest nations of the world.

As a world leader, we expect Biden to contribute to the world health issues and climate change issues, which have been ignored by the USA to an extent though the Americans have been one of the greatest victims of the pandemic and natural calamities. The whole world is going through a huge crisis right now and Biden will also face the heat from different aspects. His insight, personality and experience to tackle adverse situation will not only uphold the future of America but that also of the whole world. We hope, we will observe a different democracy during the presidency of Joe Biden.
The writer is chief editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Centre (DRC)

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