These are the three themes that will define the presidency of Democratic President-Elect Joseph R. Biden Jr and in fact, the direction of the United States of America in the next four years, and even perhaps beyond.
Healing means literally: Find a vaccine that will stop COVID-19 that has afflicted 10.422 million Americans and killed more than 244,000 of them, the worst record among 218 countries hit by the pandemic; and install health protocols nationwide to slow the deadly and debilitating coronavirus. They include the habitual wearing of masks, keeping a six-foot physical distance from others, and washing hands frequently.
The US has 331 million people, 4% of the world’s total inhabitants and yet has 20.3% of the 51.245 million global COVID cases.
Most of the victims and the deaths are blamed on the incompetence and insensitivity of the outgoing Republican president Donald J. Trump, now dubbed as the worst US president in history. Without Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic, easily half of the deaths could have been saved, analysts say.
Healing means politically, socially, and economically – unify a severely divided nation, embrace the non-college educated white and rural America (heartlands of conservatism), 78% of whom went solidly for Trump; and cure a disturbing income inequality that is the worst among the world’s seven richest nations.
Biden garnered more than 73.34 million votes, “a convincing victory”, “the most votes ever cast for a presidential ticket in the history of this nation”, he exulted.
But that is barely 52% of the record 147.78 million votes tallied so far. Trump got 71.444 million, 8.46 million more than his 2016 62.984 million votes (he lost the popular vote to Hilary Clinton by 2.8 million votes), and a stunning 48.3% the 2020 popular vote. Trump is now the only US president to lose the popular vote twice.
The Nov. 3 election to choose the 46th US president is the most divisive, most bitterly contested, and most expensive ($13 billion by both candidates) in history.
Born on Nov. 20, 1942, Biden at 78, will be the oldest American president. He is lawyer by training and has held public office since his election as senator of Delaware the first time on Nov. 7, 1972. This is his third try at the presidency, after failed attempts in 1988 and 2008. Tried by triumphs and tragedy, Biden displays enormous sincerity, empathy, compassion, resilience, and perseverance.
The Democratic party retained a bare majority in the House of Representatives with fewer congressmen (215 out of 435 seats up for election vs.198 Republican) but failed to secure a convincing majority of the 100-member Senate, despite many pre-election surveys indicating a resounding trifecta.
With the sobering electoral results, Biden pledged “to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify. Who doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States.” He also vowed to “restore the soul of America. To rebuild the backbone of the nation – the middle class.”
Addressing the other half of the nation, Trump’s followers, Biden pleaded: “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans.”
Biden said will seek “to close the racial wealth gap, to expand affordable housing, to invest in Black, Latino, and Native American entrepreneurs and communities, to advance policing and criminal justice reform, and to make real the promise of educational opportunity regardless of race or zip code.”
In his first year, Biden will convene a Summit of Democracies “to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the free world. It will bring together the world’s democracies to strengthen our democratic institutions, honestly confront nations that are backsliding, and forge a common agenda.”
The incoming US leader wants to reassert its global leadership to solve problems as regards climate change, public health (COVID pandemic), and enabling global prosperity.
Under Biden, the US will rejoin the Paris Accord on Climate Change which seeks to keep global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The US itself pledged to cut its emissions by 26-28% 2005 levels by 2025. Trump overturned 75 measures that would have enabled America to approach the target. The US will also join the World Health Organization.
“The global challenges facing the United States—from climate change and mass migration to technological disruption and infectious diseases—have grown more complex and more urgent, while the rapid advance of authoritarianism, nationalism, and illiberalism has undermined our ability to collectively meet them,” Biden wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine in January this year. “Democracies—paralyzed by hyper partisanship, hobbled by corruption, weighed down by extreme inequality—are having a harder time delivering for their people. Trust in democratic institutions is down. Fear of the Other is up. And the international system that the US so carefully constructed is coming apart at the seams. Trump and demagogues around the world are leaning into these forces for their own personal and political gain.”
“We must repair and reinvigorate our own democracy, even as we strengthen the coalition of democracies that stand with us around the world. The United States’ ability to be a force for progress in the world and to mobilize collective action starts at home,” Biden said.
“Democracy is not just the foundation of American society. It is also the wellspring of our power. It strengthens and amplifies our leadership to keep us safe in the world. It is the engine of our ingenuity that drives our economic prosperity. It is the heart of who we are and how we see the world—and how the world sees us. It allows us to self-correct and keep striving to reach our ideals over time.”
A democracy summit will convey three messages –the legitimacy, before the world, of Biden’s presidency, “make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home”, and subtly, a warning to a resurgent China (now the world’s richest country in purchasing power parity), Russia, Iran, and the enemies of democracy, that the US is back.