A new beginning

Published November 8, 2020

THE American people have made their decision. Joseph R. Biden will be the next president of the United States of America and Kamala Harris will be the first woman vice president. The result was delivered after months of a high political drama that culminated in a chaotic election day and beyond, with Mr Biden slowly gaining the numbers to beat incumbent US President Donald Trump.

The election in America marked a historic turnout with an unprecedented number of votes — a reminder that democracy in the US is an ideal that its citizens hold dear. Ahead of his victory, Mr Biden sought to look beyond the election, and urged calm as President Trump remained in denial about the results and escalated tensions by alleging that polling in some states was “fraudulent”. With words that strove to unite rather than divide the country, the incoming president vowed to put the harsh rhetoric of the campaign behind and “to unite, to heal, to come together as a nation”.

The time leading up to the election saw a polarised country — an indication of just how difficult the job ahead is for Mr Biden. He will be the president of a divided America, where citizens are reeling from myriad issues, including the highest number of Covid-19 infections and deaths in the world, lockdown-induced joblessness, racial inequality, and limited access to affordable healthcare. To add to the challenge, President Trump is making dangerous attempts to cast doubt over the electoral process — allegations which even pro-Republican media outlets say he has little evidence of. Such chaos post-election has never before been witnessed in America, and is likely to incite Trump supporters. As Biden supporters celebrate, there are some cities bracing for riots.

No doubt, the last few years have marked a dark chapter in America’s history. But it is encouraging that Mr Biden in his first speech after the vote count began promised that “no one is going to take our democracy away from us”. In a message after the result was called, he vowed to “be a president for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not”.

While a Biden win is no revolution for America, it is certainly a sign that the days of chaotic, unpredictable and shocking presidential decisions are over. As the world battles the pandemic, grapples with a ‘new normal’ for the economy and contemplates the future of the planet, it is an uplifting thought that one of the most powerful and influential world leaders will be an individual whose decisions are grounded in principles.

Putting America’s house in order is no doubt important, but there are several other issues of global significance that also need immediate attention — the two key being the need for America to return to the Paris accord on environment and for the administration to join hands with European allies on the nuclear deal with Iran.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2020

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