New dawn: On Joe Biden

Biden brings hope, but Trump’s regressive politics will certainly outlast his time

November 07, 2020 12:02 am | Updated 11:26 am IST

After trailing but steadily closing the gap since Election Day, Democrat and former Vice-President Joe Biden has seized the lead in the Republican-leaning swing State of Georgia, and in Pennsylvania , and winning them would guarantee his victory in the 2020 U.S. presidential election . Mr. Biden is now poised to garner more than 270 votes in the Electoral College, with leads in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona, and wins in any two of them or in Pennsylvania alone should be enough. However, an obstacle in his path to the Oval Office comes from the scattershot legal action by the Trump campaign to stop the counting of votes after polls closed, on the unfounded allegation that mail-in votes were subject to large-scale fraud. Mr. Biden is also firmly on track to win the popular vote decisively, having secured more than a whopping 73 million, a fact that Democrats will no doubt seize upon in the days ahead to underscore the legitimacy of their potential mandate to govern. The nail-biting denouement of the contest belied earlier hopes on both sides for a landslide victory, with the fiercest contests playing out in the swing States of the Rust Belt, including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and, further afield, Arizona, Florida, and Nevada. Under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic , a historically unprecedented surge in mail-in voting contributed to a high overall turnout, likely in excess of 68%.

In normal times, and with a predictable predecessor, Mr. Biden may have relished the prospect of preparing to enter office in January 2021. Yet the pandemic and the legacy of Mr. Trump’s administration imply that, should he win, Mr. Biden will have to make plans on an emergency footing, not only in the realms of health care and macroeconomic policy but also in terms of healing the painful divisions that have led to the emergence of two Americas, with radically divergent views on everything from tolerating pluralism to embracing globalisation. On COVID-19, the U.S. will soon touch a grim milestone — 10 million cases; more than 230,000 fatalities have been recorded. This makes it imperative that the next President of the country respects science and advocates the use of masks, social distancing, and lockdowns. Similarly, experts concur that the pandemic-induced tailspin of the U.S. economy will need a pragmatic and bold fiscal policy, not fear mongering tweets denigrating immigrants. Finally, it is likely that “Trumpism” — which includes not only dog-whistles to white supremacists, retrograde views on women’s reproductive rights and an instinct to pander to unhinged nativism, but also concern for economically disenfranchised working-class Americans — will certainly outlast Mr. Trump’s time at the White House. If the U.S. is to have a hope of holding onto its superpower status, the mammoth task of bridge-building across the bitter polarisation of the partisan divide must be the highest priority for the 46th President.

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