What Does A Biden Presidency Mean For The Rest of The World?
After days that felt like they would turn into weeks, Joe Biden has been declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election and will become the 46th President of the United States on January 20, 2021.
The landslide that pools predicted may not have happened, but with Biden winning the electoral college by 306 votes, the same number that Trump won four years ago, it’s a convincing victory nonetheless.
Biden’s task will not be easy. He takes over a country that is arguably more divided than at any point since the end of the Civil War. On his own side, he has progressives who want him to push ahead with plans to tackle the climate crisis and beef up medical insurance for millions of people. While his vanquished opponents will simmer over the defeat of their man, Trump.
The task he faces is monumental. One that could be more complicated if the Democrats’ do not have control of the Senate, which is a distinct possibility. The two Senate races in Georgia will go to a runoff and if the Democrat’s win them both, no mean feat, then the Senate will be tied at 50–50, with Kamala Harris being the tiebreaker.
The outpouring of emotion after the confirmation of Biden's victory reflects the relief many felt about Trump’s defeat. Four years of his presidency have dumbfounded and demoralised many. His defeat was a sweet moment for a lot of people.
Not only does Biden's victory affect America, but it also impacts the rest of the world. His policies on climate change and international co-operation will impact the rest of the world.
Under Trump, America wavered from its position as the foremost democracy in the world. His doctrine of America First threatened to remove their influence from the global stage and embolden autocrats across the world.
That will change under Biden. Here’s how:
The climate will become a top priority
Climate change is the major issue of our time. It may feel like the Coronavirus is more important at the moment, but it’s only a drop in the ocean compared to the impact rising temperatures are going to have on the planet.
Under Trump’s presidency, almost no effort was made to engage with this issue. He rolled back multiple regulations from the Obama era aimed at protecting the planet. He also referred to it as a Chinese hoax. It’s clear he was not interested or willing to tackle the issue.
Perhaps the hallmark of Trump’s disregard of climate change was his decision to leave the Paris Agreement, which aims to cap emissions and keep rising temperatures to 1.5 degrees and under. This is considered to be the highest we can allow the temperature to rise without widespread catastrophic damage.
The four years that Trump has been in office have been lost. That time could have been spent to tackle the issue, yet it was spent denying the reality of it. Thankfully, that is about to change.
Biden has made no secret of his commitment to tackle climate change. He’s repeatedly said that America will rejoin the Paris Agreement on the first day of his Presidency. The climate plan his team have laid out is one of the most detailed and ambitious that I’ve seen. It’s much more ambitious than anything that was proposed four years ago by Democrat challengers.
Will it go far enough? Only time will tell, but after four years of inaction, it’s vital for the planet that America is engaged with an issue that affects each and every one of us.
America will re-engage with institutions
Another feature of the Trump presidency was the complete disregard for global institutions. Many of these institutions such as the UN, NATO and the EU were set up after the Second World War in an attempt to prevent an atrocity like that from ever happening again.
In the case of the EU, that mission has been largely successful. Another full-scale war is unlikely to happen in the near future, which is remarkable considering how Europe was almost constantly at war for a thousand years or more. Apart from conflicts in the Balkans, Europe has known sustained peace like never before.
None of this seemed to matter to Trump. He was no fan of multilateralism and was happy to play his international partners off against each other instead of working in the common interest. He regularly derided members of NATO for not making fair contributions, while he regarded the EU as a competitor rather than a partner. Trump was more than happy to support Brexit, which could endanger the hard-fought peace in Northern Ireland.
The election of Biden will see America reassert itself on the global stage. The rhetoric and bluster of Trump will be replaced with dignity and statesmanship by Biden. He’s made no secret of his desire to work with the EU, in particular in regards to the potential effects of Brexit on Northern Ireland.
While, he will ensure that America reengages with NATO and stands together with its allies, rather than stand behind them. The legacy of Trump’s America First will be hard to shake off. It was popular with a portion of the electorate who were tired of America’s constant intervention abroad which had zero impact on their own lives back home.
We’re unlikely to see this approach return. Instead, we could see an America that is more engaged and conciliatory on the world stage, rather than aloof and overbearing. If that’s the case, it’s a win for everybody.
No more pandering to ‘Strongmen’ leaders
Considering that the America President is often referred to as the ‘leader of the free world,’ it was remarkable to see how quickly Trump was willing to side with autocratic leaders, otherwise known as ‘Strongmen.’
I’m not a fan of the term because the message it implies is the opposite of reality. These leaders are not strong they are weak. If they were strong, they would feel no need to limit the opposition, or increase their own powers. They only do so because they are weak and often paranoid.
Given Trump’s comments during the 2016 primaries, it was no surprise to see him cosy up to leaders such as Putin, Orban and Xi, but you always thought he might rein in his rhetoric when he took office. He didn’t.
There is no doubt that Biden will not do the same. He will not suck up to Putin, nor will he praise leaders who crackdown on the free press like Erdogan did in Turkey after the failed coup in 2016.
This is good news for the whole world. Populism and a march toward an authoritarian right had been on the rise since 2016. With Trump in the White House, these leaders are legitimised. They can do as they wish and expect no repercussions because, in many ways, Trump was jealous.
He’d love to be able to crush his opponents in the media or not bother with those bothersome elections, where people might do dastardly things, like vote against him. With Biden in charge, they will have much less legitimacy.
This isn’t to say that a Biden Presidency will actively strike against authoritarian leaders, maybe they will, but I doubt it. Instead, it’s more likely that they will distance themselves from such leaders and try to keep them on the periphery of the international stage rather than sharing it with them.
We often take the freedom we have for granted. As the protests in Belarus and Hong Kong over the past few years have shown, freedom is hard-won and something that must be treasured. The election of Biden means America will not slide further down the road to authoritarianism, but it also means the momentum that had been gathering across the world starts to slow.
For all of us, that’s a good thing. As the events of the Second World War and the subsequent totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union under Stalin show, we pay a hefty price when our freedoms are taken away.