By Roger Childs

The news services have declared Democrat Joe Biden the winner of the election. Even the right wing, pro-Republican Fox News has given Biden 290 electoral votes out of 538, 20 more than is needed. (The Left-wing CNN only gave him 279 at the time of writing.) However, the president-elect will probably end up with just over 300. Donald Trump has not conceded and retreated to a golf course in Virginia on the Saturday morning. He has vowed to fight the result and legal teams are filing suits over irregularities and claims of fraud, and a recount will happen in Georgia because of the closeness of the totals. 

But the president, who has major electoral debts and has been appealing to supporters for financial contributions, should save his money. There may have been some irregularities, however, Biden’s election victory will stand. 

It would be great if Donald Trump could be gracious, accept defeat and congratulate the man who will become the 46th President of the United States on 20 January 2021. 

The lessons of recent history

Back in 2000 the Gore–Bush election result hung on the outcome in one state — Florida – where coincidentally George W. Bush’s brother Jeb was governor. Early on, the media called Florida for Bush, and Gore graciously congratulated his opponent. Then the networks retracted the call and Gore decided to wait. After weeks of uncertainty the Supreme Court, with a conservative majority, denied the request for a recount in the state and the Republican candidate became president.

Donald Trump needs to head the lesson of 2000. He wants his lawyers to challenge the 2020 vote in 5 or 6 states. If the proceedings go ahead the lawyers will make money, and Biden will not lose the election.

The other lesson comes from the late John McCain. In 2008 he lost to Barrack Obama and gave one of the finest concession speeches in recent American history. When his supporters booed reference to Obama’s name, he shut them up and said he recognised the significance of the occasion for African-Americans. The 2020 election result is another great milestone for people of colour as the USA has its first vice president-elect of (Asian) Indian and African descent in Kamala Harris.

John McCain died in 2018 but spoke out about Donald Trump’s behavior in the White House and opposed some of his policies in the Senate where he represented Arizona. Trump in turn insulted him, for among other things, being a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Some commentators feel that this abuse may have accounted for the normally safe Republican State of Arizona going to Biden this time around. 

What will the President do?

Trump has said that the election is far from over. But he is wrong — he has lost. He needs to concede and hopefully advisors will encourage him to do that. There are still 9-10 weeks before his presidency ends and he has time to extend pardons to some of his former colleagues, such as Paul Manafort, who was his campaign manager for a few months in 2016.

Is he prepared to reach out to the president-elect during the transition? Such is not his style. The American political system will be in limbo until late January and Congress during this time between election and inauguration is traditionally dubbed “lame duck”. The out-going president can still seek to get policies passed, but for Trump this will be impossible as the lower house has a Democratic majority.

Back to the present, the announcement of Joe Biden’s victory has been greeted with wide spread celebration in towns and cities across the nation. In their acceptances speeches on Saturday, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden stressed the need for the country to come together and for bi-partisan co-operation in solving the problems of the nation. It won’t be easy.

by Geoffrey Churchman

It’s clear from comments made by Biden himself on this page of the Foreign Affairs website that Biden wants to reverse just about all the Trump administration’s actions over the last 4 years. Some external measures relate to territories south of the US border, others to the whole world.

Explicitly or implicitly —

  • Fortification of the border wall with Mexico will stop
  • There will be ready acceptance of economic migrants from central America, the “queue jumpers”
  • The ban on travel to the US from countries considered soft on Islamists will end
  • Biden will set an annual intake of “refugees” at 125,000 and seek to increase that over time
  • The US will rejoin the Chinese-dominated World Health Organisation
  • Once again the US will pay most of the cost of the NATO military alliance.
  • The US will resume giving billions of dollars to the nefarious Iranian regime
  • Russia will again be made the scapegoat for everything that goes wrong.

His statement that there will be “policies instituted during the Obama-Biden administration to reduce civilian casualties.” is somewhat disconcerting — does Biden intend to partake in more foreign wars, and if so where?

Biden’s statement that “I will restore a government-wide focus on lifting up women and girls around the world” will face problems in hardcore Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, but no doubt expediency is the name of the game there.

Also worrying is “as a nation, we have to prove to the world that the United States is prepared to lead again.” There are plenty of good things about America, but foisting American culture and values on other countries may not be welcome everywhere — “live and let live” and “autres pays, autre moeurs” should be the mantras.

More positively, he states “as vice president, I secured bipartisan support for a $750 million aid program to back up commitments from the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to take on the corruption, violence, and endemic poverty driving people to leave their homes there. Security improved and migration flows began to decrease in countries such as El Salvador. As president, I will build on that initiative with a comprehensive four-year, $4 billion regional strategy that requires countries to contribute their own resources and undertake significant, concrete, verifiable reforms.” As long as the money doesn’t go straight into the hands of corrupt bureaucrats and officials…

“Having taken these essential steps to reinforce the democratic foundation of the United States and inspire action in others, I will invite my fellow democratic leaders around the world to put strengthening democracy back on the global agenda.” That assumes Democracy is the best system of government, but it’s not always the case; in many countries people are too violent and hostile to one another for it to work, particularly in the Middle East. In these situations benign dictatorships are better. We’ve seen the disastrous results of George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton interventions.

“Today, democracy is under more pressure than at any time since the 1930s. Freedom House has reported that of the 41 countries consistently ranked ‘free’ from 1985 to 2005, 22 have registered net declines in freedom over the last five years.” Many would contend the list of declines should include Jacindaland, with her dreadful attacks last year and this on those ideologically opposed to her regime and her intended “hate speech” laws.

We mentioned his intended “Summit for Democracy” in the post about the concerns expressed over it in the Middle East.

“…free speech cannot serve as a license for technology and social media companies to facilitate the spread of malicious lies. Those companies must act to ensure that their tools and platforms are not empowering the surveillance state, gutting privacy, facilitating repression in China and elsewhere, spreading hate and misinformation, spurring people to violence, or remaining susceptible to other misuse.” It might sound good, but there many who think his actions will achieve the opposite.

Trade policy

“A foreign policy for the middle class will also work to make sure the rules of the international economy are not rigged against the United States—because when American businesses compete on a fair playing field, they win. I believe in fair trade. More than 95 percent of the world’s population lives beyond our borders—we want to tap those markets. We need to be able to build the very best in the United States and sell the very best around the world. That means taking down trade barriers that penalize Americans and resisting a dangerous global slide toward protectionism. That’s what happened a century ago, after World War I—and it exacerbated the Great Depression and helped lead to World War II.”

That sounds promising for NZ, but ominously he also states “the wrong thing to do is to put our heads in the sand and say no more trade deals” which almost certainly means promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership again which Trump pulled out of. The beneficiaries will be global oligarchs, mainly in China and the US, not ordinary workers.

He rather contradicts this, however, with “the United States does need to get tough with China. If China has its way, it will keep robbing the United States and American companies of their technology and intellectual property. It will also keep using subsidies to give its state-owned enterprises an unfair advantage—and a leg up on dominating the technologies and industries of the future.” Well, isn’t that what Trump has been saying, too?

Biden also makes clear he subscribes to the belief that climate change is man-made: “The United States must lead the world to take on the existential threat we face—climate change. If we don’t get this right, nothing else will matter. I will make massive, urgent investments at home that put the United States on track to have a clean energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050. Equally important, because the United States creates only 15 percent of global emissions, I will leverage our economic and moral authority to push the world to determined action. That includes insisting that China—the world’s largest emitter of carbon—stop subsidizing coal exports and outsourcing pollution to other countries by financing billions of dollars’ worth of dirty fossil fuel energy projects through its Belt and Road Initiative.” Good luck with that.