As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris took the oath of the US President and Vice President's offices on 20 January, an era of hope began with expected aims of bringing a balance to the international stage.
America has been the beacon of trust and leadership ever since it took reins for leading the world from the British Empire post World War-II. With the American Dream, as the land of opportunities and the world’s oldest democracy, the US has long dominated the world’s political, cultural, economic, militaristic, and sociological spheres.
This massive influence of the US over the world makes its contemporary political situation all the more relevant and conspicuous for even people who are far away from the United States.
Turbulent Era of Trump Administration
Four years ago, world politics witnessed a fundamental paradigm shift apropos the rise of a particular kind of political faction across the world- the Right. Naturally, the US was at the centre of this transition of world politics from a progressive-centrist outlook to a staunch right-wing panorama. The election of Donald J. Trump as the President of the United States of America in 2016 marked the beginning of an era of politics featuring divisiveness, lies, “alternative facts”, and polarisation.
Following the suit, right-wing populist governments have strengthened across the world- Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Boris Johnson in Britain, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Narendra Modi in India, Imran Khan in Pakistan, and many other countries.
Donald won the US presidency in 2016 with his message of ‘Make America Great Again– MAGA‘, meaning that he will bring back the ‘good ole days’ of America, which were marked with extreme racial tensions, gender and class inequality and an inherent hatred for immigrants coming to America in the search for a better life, among many other vices.
And frankly, he did bring all these issues back in his first, and the last, tenure as the President. From his chants of ‘Lock Her Up (“her” being the former FLOTUS, Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic Party Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton) to ‘Build The Wall’ (a wall at the southern border of the US with Mexico) for which Mexico was supposed to pay, Trump told what he was bringing to world’s table as the most powerful man in the world.
Mirage of Success in Authoritarianism
Like almost every other authoritarian leader, Donald Trump boasted perpetually about his economic policies and gains, ‘claiming’ that he indeed made the American economy the greatest of all time. While the US economy did perform well under Trump, it was an offshoot of the process that began under his predecessor President Obama’s administration after the economic depression of 2008.
Nevertheless, Trump marketed his ‘trumped-up trickle-down’ economic policies as his strongest alms to the American people, guided as the signature of American growth. While in reality, the free market economy coupled with high tech capitalism led to the loss of millions of jobs even before the COVID-19 pandemic took over.
Ipso facto, authoritarian leaders create a mirage, often making hollow promises of massive economic gains branded as nationalism. These promises come tumbling down like a house of cards when the supreme leader’s reign eventually creates colossal inequality and insecurity among the ordinary people.
Right-wing demagogues like Trump exploit and succeed in giving air to the fire of hatred for the ‘other’. The ‘other’ constitutive identity is necessary for an authoritarian and fascist leader to make the ‘bad guy’ (to be read as gender-neutral), and subsequent example, out of someone.
Just like Hitler othered the Jews, Trump othered the immigrants, and Narendra Modi has othered the Muslims and Dalits in India, solely intending to capture power by capturing the psyche of the majority. By generating a hate-filled toxic atmosphere that breeds social division and tensions, right-wing rulers like Trump and Modi succeed in their quest for the top seat.
Beginning of Hope
Fortunately, Trump’s era has come to a hopeful, widely anticipated, and celebrated end. Biden’s inauguration after a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol has indeed been a historical event, not only for the US but for the world as well. History is also made in his number two, former California Senator Kamala Harris’s inauguration as the first woman and person of colour to be the vice president of the US.
As these Democrats take control of the White House, the de facto power centre of the world, the liberal, centrist and progressive forces of the free world will be energized and recalibrated after a four-year “reign of conservative, bigoted and racist majoritarianism” (the New York Times said it).
Hours after taking the oath of the office, Biden signed a series of executive orders, a common practice in the US presidential history, reversing some of the most controversial Trump administration laws by joining back the Paris Accords, revoking the travel ban for Muslims from the select few countries, and strengthening the COVID-19 vaccine distribution programme.
From a global perspective, with the Biden-Harris ticket win, an era of hope and a global alliance of the liberal forces is expected to bring back balance to the international stage. To draw an analogy, it can be seen as forging a coalition of countries like the one formed in the post-World War-II era in the 1940s to defeat the toxic forces and undo the wrongs of dictatorial administrations.
What Biden Brings to Table
In Joe Biden, the people of the United States have not only elected a president, but they have also resoundingly and unequivocally given the mandate to end Trump’s illiberal, polarising, and racist political branding, which in turn, has affected many parts of the world in the past few years.
This mandate represents the American values that stand for a plural society and the American dream where anyone can live peacefully and go on to acquire the highest office of the land. Amidst a deeply divided world where racial, social, and class tensions are at an all-time high, the US elections’ results are a glimmer of hope for the more humane forces in the world to prevail.
Biden, who has been a life-long Democrat and has supported many progressive decisions in recent US history like the legalization of same-sex marriage, is ready, able, and willing to lead the US and its liberal and progressive allies across the globe. His victory is the victory of liberal and inclusive politics, which is necessary for unseating the global right-wing separatist political leaders.
As Democrats, led by Biden, begin to rebuild the American conscience along the centrist lines of policies and values with an alliance of white middle-class urban, coloured working-class immigrants, and Americans of every race, the world should take note of these changing trends and start aligning themselves with the humane policies outlined by the US.
Freedom in World- 2020
Of the total 210 recognised nation states and territories in the world, only 84 countries or territories can be categorized as FREE in 2020. That is just 40% of all the countries.
(Source: Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2020)
- Free Countries/ Territories84
- Partly Free Countries/ Territories67
- Not Free Countries/ Territories59
Effects on International Community
With Biden and Harris at the helm, countries with authoritarian leadership won’t be able to get away with severe human rights violations and abuse of power scot-free anymore. China, Russia, and Cuba, where there are significant violations of human rights under the garb of socialism, will be dealt with a more substantial hand under Biden’s presidency.
The middle East, where the social order is seldom stable, will also be dealt with tactfully by Biden. He has a vast experience in the region, having served as the vice president for eight years under Obama.
A strong message for India lies in the win of the Biden-Harris ticket. Harris has been very outspoken about the Kashmir issue. He has empathized with the Kashmiri people, who, for decades, have been ostracized by the Indian government as well as the international community.
Under Modi, India has taken a sharp right-turn in the socio-political sphere, leaving very little space for exercising fundamental constitutional rights promised by the Indian constitution. This will have to change, and Indian liberals, opposition, and Democrats will have to learn from their American peers to build a comprehensive national alliance, cut across communities and caste lines, and bring about a substantial change.
Be it the American people, or the people of Brazil, Cuba, Hong Kong, or India, the only thing that binds them in unity is their will to live in a free and fair society driven by the notions of equity and equality. It is the people who bring about real change in their countries. The American people voted for Trump to be the President in 2016, and it is again the American people who have voted him out in 2020.
People might be frustrated with wide-spread unemployment, massive economic slowdown, a pandemic, and the hateful rhetoric of identity politics. Still, it is only to channelize this frustration into their voices and remove the dictatorial politics from their lands.
Long Road To Go
Despite Biden’s victory, the threat of right-wing identity politics is not yet over. The New York Times outlined that “Mr Trump may have lost, Trumpism is yet not defeated”. And thus, the specter of hatred still looms. Biden and Harris have inherited an America that is the most divided since the Civil War.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon all the democratic and progressive forces of the world to come together once again and lead the world out of the peril of fascism and majoritarianism. We are taught since our childhood- ‘together, we win‘. It is now time for us to redeem those words’ power and stand in solidarity with the allies of ‘liberty, equality, and fraternity‘.