SOON-TO-BE former President of the United States of America, Donald J Trump, turned out to be a predictably sore loser with his refusal to accept his defeat by Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden in the presidential election, whilst whipping up rabble-rousing rhetoric about how his opponents ‘stole’ the election. This was dangerous and could have sparked off violent street protests by some of his more extreme supporters who uncritically accept every thing he says.
There was no graciousness by him in defeat, just a hint of begrudging acknowledgement and not before every manner of threat of litigation – based on little or no evidence – was made to try to overturn the result, which was very clear and decisive. Democracy was the real winner in this US presidential election, which had the largest turn-out ever.
This election featured some interesting differences in voting patterns, as the majority of postal votes cast were for Joe Biden because Democratic Party supporters chose to vote from home rather than risk unnecessary visits to polling stations due the Covid-19 pandemic and the potential for intimidation, whereas Republican supporters did the opposite. Trump’s campaign rallies were highly-irresponsible, with most followers not wearing face masks or social distancing.
Donald Trump’s 70 million votes would have been more than enough to win any previous election, but Joe Biden’s 75 million were even more impressive and gives himself and his Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, the first woman – and woman of colour – to be elected to such a high office in the USA a decisive mandate to govern.
However, they will be dealing with a deeply-divided country. The promise by Joe Biden to be a president for all the people, including those who did not vote for him, will be a difficult one to keep, given that Trump’s supporters will not want to be patronised by him.
President-elect Biden may have a difficult time getting his legislative programme enacted with stalemate in the Senate likely to stymie his efforts. However, as a veteran senator, Biden has built up a lot of contacts on both sides of the house over the years and knows what’s needed to get things done.
With Irish family roots going back several generations to both Ballina, Co Mayo, and the Cooley Peninsula in the north-east, Ireland is hoping for a better and more productive relationship with the United States than it has had during the current administration. Trump’s patronising visit to Ireland was more about promoting his golf resort in Doonbeg, Co Clare, than anything that was of much benefit to us.
A big theme of the Trump presidency was ‘Making America great again’ and part of his plan was to try to get American multi-national companies to relocate their overseas operations back to the States so that they could pay their taxes there rather than to foreign governments such as us who offered more competitive tax rates. However, Biden also wants US companies to repatriate, so Ireland will be watching the situation with interest and some concern.
As Irish President Michael D Higgins stated, in his congratulatory message to Mr Biden and Ms Harris, ‘the bonds between the peoples of Ireland and the United States are close and strong, and I look forward to our two countries working together to rebuild the much-needed trust in the methods and institutions of national and international solidarity and co-operation.’
TWO big-ticket international issues that US President-elect Biden and his team need to address urgently – even ahead of his January 20th inauguration – are the Covid-19 pandemic and action on climate change that the Trump administration has been in denial about.
Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 UN Paris Climate Change Agreement was a big setback for activists in this sphere. Since then, young people worldwide have made their feelings strongly known to politicians that ‘There is no Planet B,’ so Biden will have to take some decisive climate action to make up for lost time on the part of the USA, if the world is to make serious strides towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
This also feeds into climate justice as some of the poorest regions of the world are disproportionately suffering from the effects of climate change, leading to widespread hunger and migration. America needs to take a leading role in addressing climate change in a practical and measurable way.
But, the most immediate concern of most American citizens is the Covid-19 pandemic and it was good to note that one of the first actions of Mr Biden’s transition team this week was to set up a coronavirus taskforce. However, it is unclear how effective this will be if the outgoing administration refuses to co-operate with it.
There is a huge urgency because last weekend saw the United States recording more than 100,000 cases of Covid-19 for a third consecutive day along with over a thousand deaths daily for four consecutive days. The virus is running rampant over there and action to suppress it cannot come soon enough.
Internally also, the vexed issue of race relations – the flames of which were fanned by Trump – needs to be addressed and a lot of healing will be necessary. This is an area in which Kamala Harris can play a key role.
SO, where does this the American presidential election result leave Donald J Trump as a politician? His election four years ago was his first to any public office ever. Starting at the top, the only way usually is down and he certainly contributed to his own demise in many ways.
On the international stage, he sullied America’s reputation, making friends with de facto dictators in Russia and North Korea. But that did not concern his followers who live in a bubble of their own in the USA and once the economy is going well – as it was up to the time the pandemic struck – they were happy with him and his utterances.
No doubt, Trump will feel emboldened by the 70 million votes he secured in the presidential election, but will he have the patience to wait four years to have another run for office? More to the point, will the Republican Party be prepared to tolerate and indulge him again?
Many prominent people in the so-called Grand Old Party were embarrassed by Trump’s behaviour and his allegations about having the election ‘stolen’ from him grated as he called the whole electoral process – which seemed to function well – into question. Former US President and member of the Republican Party, George W Bush, at least, had the good grace to congratulate Joe Biden on winning the election, especially seeing the sulking Trump could not bring himself to do so.
Trump will remain in office for another two months until the Biden inauguration as president. He will probably continue regardless to protest that he was cheated out of office. He would command a lot more respect if he just accepted the will of the people and left quietly, but that is probably too much to expect from him.