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Editorial: Biden and beyond

After days of nail-biting suspense, Joe Biden’s unassailable lead in Pennsylvania took him well over the 270 electoral college votes needed to occupy the White House. Soon after he declared in a rousing victory speech that he would rebuild the soul of America and make it respected around the world again, congratulations have been pouring in from leaders from different parts of the world.

Editorial: Biden and beyond


In normal circumstances, the story of the US election would have been over. But this was a close contest in a very polarised time; most of all, it was against a frustrated man who is unprepared to back down and is readying to throw a slew of legal challenges over alleged voter fraud.

Despite the prospect of court battles in five States, there is very little to suggest there was evidence of irregularities or fraud on a scale that could have tilted the election result. At the same time, any examination of what a Biden presidency could mean for America and the world needs to be appended with a small caveat: as things stand, the election has been called by media outlets; with at least two states going into a recount and with December 8 laid down as the date by which all election disputes should be settled, the election story will be formally sewn up only a month from now.

As even most Republicans are aware, it will be a huge surprise if there are any more twists in this painful and long drawn out saga. And a confident Biden has already swung into action, readying to constitute a task force to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing to reverse some of Trump’s policies. Some of these will be relatively painless. The law banning immigration from select Muslim-majority nations will likely go, there will be changes made to defer action against immigrant children, and that America will re-join the Paris climate accords.

But these are relatively easy pickings. On two critical and arguably central issues, the legacy of the Trump era will be difficult to shake off. The protectionist ring that he threw around American business, coupled with the focus on investment at home and employment for white-collar workers, will not be easy to remove. There will also be no easy return to an environment of free and open trade. Correspondingly, the harder and more transactional foreign policy, which saw a series of tough negotiations and deals struck around the world, may remain for longer than assumed.

Since this was an election that was essentially between those who were for and against Trump, the focus will shift, and starkly, on Joe Biden. A disappointed Trump fan club is not his only problem; as a moderate, he has to contend with the left within his party, who are intolerant of any form of centrism. Two more elections, both run-offs in Georgia, will determine how free a hand he will enjoy. Losses here will mean the Republicans retain their edge in the Senate, which will have implications for how big-ticket reforms such as the proposed economic stimulus, infrastructure, and health care reforms are implemented. Meanwhile, there is an immediate need. In his victory speech, he pledged to be a president who would unify rather than seek to divide, make no distinction between red and blue states, and work with all his heart to win the confidence of the American people. This is exactly what a divided nation needs now. If Biden can deliver on this promise, his victory and his presidency will be amongst the most significant in recent times.

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