When Joseph R. Biden Jnr stretched out his hand on the bible last Wednesday, 20 January 2021 to take his oath of office as the 46th President of the United States, he probably did not realize fully, that the hopes and expectations of many admirers of democracy across the world were now on his shoulders.
His bumpy ride to the White House, right from the day he declared his intention to run for the American presidency, till the date he was sworn in, was enough to rattle any mortal being.
Many observers noticed that Biden’s early campaign activities did not inspire much confidence. During intra-party primaries, he stumbled consistently. His opponents highlighted his uneven records, his rhetorical blunders, and his age.
Analysts recall how, in 2008, he had scored one per cent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses and quickly bowed out.
Courageously Biden persisted this time, deploying a steady appeal to his ordinariness, and sense of decency. Finally, he won the Democratic party ticket.
During the presidential campaign, Biden went against an incumbent President that had the violation of expected norms as the centerpiece of his presidential leadership.
All through his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump showed great penchant for giving his challengers derogatory nicknames. Who will forget “Crooked Hillary.” “Low-Energy Jeb.” “Lying Ted.” And “Little Marco.” Trump’s taunts exceeded the bounds of campaign decorum, although they generated a lot of attention to help him stand out and gain attention, much more than the conventional elitism displayed by his opponents. He wasted no time in branding Bidden “Sleepy Joe”.
Their contest was very hot and bitter. The Presidential debates between the two were rancorous and filled with name-calling. Even when Joe Biden won the popular vote by a margin of more than four million, as well as the Electoral College to become the forty-sixth President of the United States, Donald Trump defiantly declared that “they” are trying to steal the election from him.
Trump fought the results of the presidential elections bitterly and was impeached by the House of Representatives last week for inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol while Congress was sitting to certify Biden’s win.
Trump, till the day he left the white house also refused to congratulate Joe Biden for winning the election or concede that his loss was legitimate. He refused to attend the inauguration, thus becoming the first president in modern history to skip the swearing-in of his successor.
Trump tried countless court cases and incited his rabid followers to invade Capitol Hill but all could not step the emergence of Joe Biden as President.
Probably Trump did not recall the words of the popular French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic Movement, Victor Marie Hugo (1802-1885) who said that: “All the forces in the world are not as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
The tide of event has changed irreversibly. The man picked at the political marketplace called elections would be America’s President for the next four years. Everything else must bow to the will of the people.
With the entry of Joe Biden last Wednesday, the presidency in America is expected to return to a smart, civil, and upbeat approach to world affairs vital for managing most daunting challenges of the present age. The American government should soon return to its full diplomatic strength.
One key expectation from Biden would be some strategic and deliberate efforts to foster unity in a deeply divided American state. This consciousness was captured by Bidden in his address at swearing-in ceremony when he said, “We must end this uncivil war, that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal.”
He also said, “My whole soul is in this. Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the foes we face – anger, resentment and hatred. Extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, and hopelessness”.
There are glimmers of hope as Biden is building a broad political coalition to create the most diversified presidency ever, bringing in blacks, transgender, gays and so many minority groups into top positions in government. However, real time of test will come during the impending Senate hearing on the impeachment of Donald Trump. What would be Biden’s disposition and body language on the issue? His actions with compassion on this and other issues will determine the pace he wants to speed up America’s time of healing.
Another area Biden is expected to work on assiduously is rebuilding trust in America’s democratic processes. Never has the pillars of America’s democracy been so threatened as during the last presidential elections. The collation processes and voting by mail or by proxy were so contentious that they almost led to a civil war. It is therefore vital that these and other related issues should be settled with wisdom and equity before the next presidential elections. Biden needs to champion the campaign to restore faith to the integrity of America’s democracy. He also needs to address the primitive mechanism of the Electoral College and help reform the present nebulous voting system that is prone to all types of interpretation. With Key figures including former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton calling for a review, Biden is expected to act before his tenure expires.
The containment of the coronavirus is another issue Biden’s is expected to give top priority. While the Trump administration accelerated the development of COVID 19 vaccine, it failed to create a vigorous national plan to deploy it to all corners of the country. An elaborate plan is in the pipeline to ensure more effective distribution of vaccines across America. Previous plans were also devoid of bilateral and international cooperation. With the US re-entry into the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other bodies, Biden is sure to promote wider partnerships in the war against COVID 19.
With renewed speed and zeal in vaccinating the entire population, steady growth of the US economy will naturally follow at a gradual pace.
American allies in Europe, Asia and indeed the international community would be looking to the Biden administration with a measured sense of hope. They believe the new administration will be disposed towards working with allies and partners on various challenges as there are lots of common grounds among them, such as climate action, arms control, human rights issues and others. Already President Biden has signed series of new Presidential orders reflecting these facts.
Even expected areas of disparity like trade imbalances, tech regulations that the Trump administration fought with so much theatrics are expected to be treated with extensive negotiations and limited acrimony.
It would be reasonable to note that despite Biden’s ample political will to work with allies and within multilateral institutions, several problems in the world will still defy quick fixes. Exciting results like global peace, steady economic growth and seamless collaborations will take time. The international community should equally realize that to overcome widespread challenges facing the world, would require so much more than words.
- Ntia Usukuma