Biden’s victory shifts the balance of power in Washington
An analysis by Daniel Haufler
The future US President Joe Biden is the exact opposite of Donald Trump. He stands for decency and credibility. That is why he was elected. But the Republicans still use their opportunities to dismantle democracy. Even without Trump. Biden is facing a difficult term in office - but he is the right man for the job and he has the right vice-president.
[This article published on Nov 9, 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://gegenblende.dgb.de/artikel/++co++18c8af9c-2291-11eb-ac5a-001a4a16011a. ]
People are celebrating on the streets, champagne is splashing up, US flags are waving, bright sunshine.
This is how people in Washington celebrated when the election victory of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was certain. The mood was as exuberant as if a dictator had been overthrown.
The nightmare is - almost - over. US President Donald Trump does not want to admit it yet, but he has clearly lost the presidential elections to his challenger Joe Biden. But what does that mean? This question can only be answered in part so far.
Democracy works in the USA - to some extent
First and foremost: The world's longest existing democracy functions in spite of Trotsky's Trump - and largely without problems. More people than ever before have cast their votes in the US elections. All the measures to irritate minorities with fake news, to make postal voting more difficult, to intimidate them with militias and to prevent them from voting have ultimately failed. In what is probably the most important election in the country for decades, a majority of over five million citizens voted against Donald Trump - although he too succeeded in mobilizing his base to an undreamt-of extent. Despite the record turnout, the counting went almost smoothly; all the relevant authorities and all the election workers were unimpressed by the drumfire of accusations of fraud from the White House. There is no question that Trump will be replaced as president on January 20, 2021. So far, so good.
But it is actually the least that it is possible in a democracy to hold elections and to expel an incompetent, racist and misogynist fraudster from office. But for the US democratic system to become truly democratic again, fundamental reforms would be necessary. At present, constituencies are often tailored in such a way that Democrats need up to six percent more votes to gain a majority in the House of Representatives or several state parliaments. The electoral system favors republican-ruled states-a relic from the 19th century, when the former slave-owning states sweetened the abolition of slavery with more electoral votes. In the 2018 elections for Senate seats, the Democrats won 18 million (18,000,000) more votes, but not the majority in the House. In any case, the low-population, rural states are far overrepresented there. Wyoming, for example, also has two senators like California, although it has eight times as many people.
Since the Republicans will in all likelihood defend their majority in the Senate, they should, however, prevent any attempt to democratize the US political system. They also won in numerous states, where they can continue to tailor constituencies so that the Democrats have almost no chance of winning. In other words, the Republicans are even further reducing democratic rights. In the United States, therefore, a minority will continue to dominate the majority, as it has done in the past.
Kamala Harris and Joe Biden stand on a stage, she on the left, he on the right of a lectern, and wave into the audience. Both wear black face masks.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris celebrate the election victory with supporters* in Wilmington and both give promising speeches. Biden mentions the name Trump only once.
If you look at these facts, you realize immediately: Donald Trump may be a special case as a person, but ultimately, he represents his party perfectly. After all, even the top Republicans have long since ceased to be concerned with the values of democracy. Anyone who still doubted this in 2016 could, indeed had to realize in the four years of Trump's presidency: These run-down Republicans have at no time seriously tried to criticize or even stop the autocratic tendencies of their president. Electoral assistance from Russian intelligence agencies, enrichment in office, lies and deceit-all not enough reason for Republicans to drop Trump. At least until now.
Trump remains the "900-pound gorilla" of the Republicans, if he wants to
Biden's victory shifts the balance of power in Washington. However, what Trump intends to do now is still unclear. Over the weekend, Republican Senator Mitt Romney, one of the few inner-party Trump critics, said: He remains the most important man, the "900-pound gorilla in the party". So, if he wants to, he will continue to determine the course of the Republicans and on top of that, who should probably be the next presidential candidate. Donald Trump Jr? In any case, he continues to have influence over much of the base. A tweet trumps can still end the political career of a Republican. This will not change any time soon.
But perhaps the Republicans are beginning to realize that in the long run they can only win majorities if they do not damage democracy but strengthen it - and open themselves up to new groups of voters and strata. After all, it is not only the demographics of the United States that are changing in favor of minorities; in ten years, whites will be just another minority in the country. The value structure of society is also constantly changing - it is becoming more liberal in both social and societal issues. In economic issues it is sometimes the other way around. In any case, the times of a conservative basic consensus are over. In addition, political ties in the USA, as elsewhere, are diminishing. This is not really as surprising for America as it is in Europe, for example, because the highly polarized party conflict there is only a product of the past four decades. Before that, Democrats and Republicans represented a broad, very heterogeneous spectrum of voters. In the South, Democrats were even more conservative than many Republicans, in the North, Republicans were sometimes more liberal than Democrats.
Under a President Joe Biden, a transformation of both parties to greater openness in different directions is conceivable. His political imprint at a time when both sides were not as hostile to each other as they have been lately could prove beneficial for politics and society in the United States. In his speech at the weekend he showed himself open to cooperation with republicans. Much will depend, however, on whether they become de-radicalized. To do so, they would have to initiate a fairly far-reaching turnaround, since the party's radicalization process began long before Trump. It goes back to Richard Nixon's racist "Southern Strategy", and to Ronald Reagan, who took up where Nixon left off and, with the fictitious black "Welfare Queen", underpinned his neoliberal economic course with racist undertones.
The Congress building with its famous dome can be seen beyond a body of water. Dark clouds hang in the sky.
Pessimists fear that the hostile mood between Republicans and Democrats in Congress will not improve after Biden's election victory. Much probably depends on the Republican majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.
The Republicans' shift to the right has been particularly serious since Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. The black man in the White House was a provocation for them. It is ultimately thanks to her that there is resistance to his health care reform, to social programs for indebted homeowners or a fairer tax policy. All these moderate reforms, in the case of Obamacare even based on a Republican model, would have benefited minorities, especially blacks. The radical (white) Tea Party within the Republicans, which de facto disempowered the party establishment, resisted this. At the end of this process stood Donald Trump with his crude populism, his racism, his misogyny, his lies, his complete failure in almost all fields of politics, especially in the fight against the Covid19 pandemic.
Hopes for the future rest on Kamala Harris
Joe Biden is therefore right to be the first to tackle the pandemic. This was one of the two major themes of his election campaign. The other was the return to decency and credibility. In the end, he deliberately refrained from making any major polarizing demands - even though his election program contains quite a few of them. This tactic worked. And so, Biden of all people, the candidate often criticized as too old, too old-fashioned and too moderate, who still likes to use metaphors from a time when fax machines were modern - so this political veteran of all people could be a blessing for the USA and, despite difficult conditions (especially in the Senate), become a transformative president. For he possesses a mixture of qualities that has become rare in American politics. He is experienced as a constructive parliamentarian and has government experience, he takes the major problems of the present seriously-especially the social question and health care, climate protection and racism-and he does not shy away from compromise. He is not an intellectual, but a smart, down-to-earth doer. And he possesses perhaps the most important personal characteristic: empathy.
Joe Biden personifies the exact opposite of Donald Trump. He is therefore the president that the country now needs. Biden will not suddenly dissolve the extreme polarization in society and politics. But he will contribute to a détente. There will be no hourly nasty tweets of false information from him, he will not spread discord and hatred on a television station every day. On the contrary, Biden will probably try - often enough certainly unsuccessfully - to convince his political rival of his approach to involve him. This alone makes it somewhat more difficult for the Republicans to continue their destructive machinations with which they once blocked or even prevented almost every political initiative by Barack Obama for six years.
Biden still has an advantage in this difficult situation. He is the oldest president ever elected and will therefore in all probability only rule for four years. This reduces his options, but it also makes him freer. Since he will probably not have to fight for re-election, he can prepare the United States more courageously for the social, demographic and political challenges of the future.
The future vice president Kamala Harris stands for this future. Great hopes rest on her. For she will not only be responsible for important reforms alongside President Biden, but she can also help reconcile America with what it already is: a plural, diverse and multicultural society. It will be worthwhile to observe Harris's work closely over the next four years - and to wish her luck. Also, out of self-interest. If Biden and she fail, another four years of reactionary America with a populist fool at the top are in danger. That would be a catastrophe not only for the USA, but for the whole world.
P.S. Oh, it's going to be so nice when you hardly hear from Trump any more.
Daniel Haufler is the responsible editor for the online debate magazine Gegenblende and its podcasts.
Note JK: This Biden drunkenness is already annoying. That US society is "a plural, diverse and multicultural society" is perhaps how left-wing liberals, who are usually privileged whites themselves, see it. But first and foremost the US is a brutal class society. There is nothing plural and diverse. Those who do not come from the right social class (primarily still white and Protestant) and have not studied at the right university have little chance in the USA. And Biden in particular will not change that. Bernie Sanders wanted that, but the Democratic establishment, which is ultimately only committed to Wall Street, didn't want that.