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Analysis

American Elections And The Aftermath

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The elections in the US are over but the analysts believe that the controversy which was created by President Trump and his team would last for a long time. However, most of the political commentators are now looking at how the new president would run the matters once he would take the charge. Traditionally, when the governments change in the US there are slight only changes in the policies – not too much in the goals – but in the way to achieving those goals, especially the foreign policy goals. President Trump was somewhat different than his predecessors. He tried to bring about significant changes in the policy goals.

Starting with “Make America Great Again” and “America First”, he pulled out, renegotiated, and questioned many international agreements which in his opinion, hurt the US interests domestically and internationally. He brought about changes in domestic policies, in the name of immigration control, security against the terrorism and in health policies. Using Executive Orders, he reversed the Affordable Care Act – Obama’s landmark legislation – and to fulfill his key campaign promise of enhancing border security by erecting a wall along the US-Mexico border, he directed federal funding for the construction of a wall. Another key promise of his campaign was to save America from foreign terrorists. His Executive Order of January 2017 suspended the entry of immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries — Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia — for 90 days and stopped all refugees from entering the country for 120 days. Syrian refugees were banned indefinitely until the secretary of homeland security and the secretary of state would review and revise the refugee admission process. Also in the order was the suspension of Obama’s 2012 Visa Interview Waiver Program, which allowed frequent U.S. tourists to bypass the visa interview process.

President Trump’s almost landslide defeat in the Presidential elections shocked many of his supporters. He is trailing in Arizona, and if Joe Biden would win there – which is very likely – it will be a Democratic party victory after 24 years in Arizona. He is also trailing in Georgia – a southern state and high chances that he would lose – and if Joe Biden wins there it will be a Democratic party’s victory after 28 years. Almost 67% (projected) of total registered voters voted in this election, while in 2008 it was 62%, in 2012 it was 59% and in 2016 it was 60% turnout. Maybe since Joe Biden’s campaign urged people to vote by mail so that more votes could use their right without exposing themselves to the COVID-19. Close to 100 million votes — almost two-third of the total registered voters — were the mail-in or drop-off ballots votes, which made the counting in the swing states very sluggish and frustrating for the people who are used to getting results late on election night.

Even with the clear mandate, the new President in the White House has to deal with a formidable Senate, which is controlled by the Republicans — and the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who stood by President Trump and says that President Donald Trump is “100% within his rights” to question election results and consider legal options — to bring about changes and work on his reform agenda. So far the Republican leadership is reluctant to come out and congratulate President-elect Joe Biden, because they may already have sensed the anger created in their constituencies due to the rhetoric generated by the Trump campaign. Senator McConnell may have given the statement to appease his Republican supporters. However, he did not support the President’s view that the vote-counting should have been stopped because those votes were allegedly brought after the polling time was over – the allegation, which was denied by all the election officers in those states. In the coming days, America could witness harsh rhetoric, debates, and lawsuits which would further polarize the country.

So far, President-elect Joe Biden is trying to keep the heat as low as it can be, however, if the team-Trump would be joined by his fellow Republicans, and they began to put hurdles in the transition, America may observe equally fiery Joe Biden. These scenarios would further divide America and would make President Biden’s job even more difficult. At least, until 2022 mid-terms if the Senate control would move to the Democrats.

President Joe Biden has to make some tough decisions not only domestically but also internationally. Even after the growth of neo-Nazism against the Jewish people in the US after President Trump sworn-in, a large number of Israelis in the US and Israel support President Trump, because they believe that President Trump gave everything to them what they wanted for their state. President Biden would be a supporter of Israel like his predecessors, but he will not open his heart like President Trump. That doesn’t mean that President Biden would be like President Obama – which a large number of Israelis fear – but he will not be as generous as President Trump. Biden Administration would want to see some progress in the region but it is very unlikely that they would be pushing for some specific agreement like President Obama. Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog writes in Daily Haaretz, “This partial picture, which is full of shades of gray, hold a potential for friction on issues that are critical to Israel”.

President-elect Joe Biden would be strong on the human rights issues in the Middle East. However, analysts who talked to the top aides of team-Biden believe that President Biden will not be very high on this agenda. Brig. Gen Herzog writes further in his Daily Haaretz op-ed, “They seem to be a far cry from the irrational hopes for the Arab Spring of the Obama era, from dividing the Middle East between Iran and Saudi Arabia or from seeing political Islam as an antidote to extremist Islam”.

Afghanistan will be another issue where President Joe Biden will have a very different approach than President Trump. President Trump’s approach was mostly — due to his “America First” doctrine (if I may call it doctrine!) – to leave Afghanistan completely once some type of peace deal with the Taliban – no matter how short-term – would be signed. However, President Biden would want to maintain the peace dividend, and to achieve this he would maintain the US presence in Afghanistan. There may not be any policy changes towards China and India. The US policy towards China is highly influenced by the US establishment because for them rising China is a threat to the US National Security. Very similar way the rise of Germany during the early 20th century made Britain nervous and the rise of Athenians made Spartans hysterical in 431 BCE. The US’s China policy would, by default, increase the importance of India in the region. Like President Bush, President Obama, and then President Trump, President Biden would continue supporting India – not only because India can be a huge trade market for American businesses, but also to contain China, like during the 1950s and 1960s Pakistan was useful to keep eye on the Soviet Union.

President Biden’s victory would be very beneficial for Pakistan’s democratic institutions. What a coincidence, just days after Biden won the elections, Pakistan’s biggest media group, Jang/Geo/The News owner Mir Shakeel ur Rehman was bailed out. He was under National Accountability Bureau custody for months without any charges. Pakistan’s so-called “hybrid system” and its orchestrators and movers have to be concerned. Prime Minister Imran Khan may not be able to charm President Biden because unlike President Trump, who hardly knows anything about Pakistan and who used to see Pakistan as a country which can deliver him on Afghanistan, President Biden knows a lot about Pakistan and understands Pakistan’s trouble dynamics. During his office as a Vice President, he helped support a Kerry-Lugar bill to shift the US policy from making relations with the military only to making relations with its people and to help President Zardari’s civilian government so that the people will have the dividend of democracy.

President Biden may also pressurise India – may not be publicly – to stop its genocide in Kashmir and get India to lower down its war hysteria and move to the peace table with Pakistan. That would be a great opportunity for Pakistan. However, if the current course continues; where the dissenters are kidnapped without any charges, where the opposition leaders are thrown in jails without any charges for months while the corrupt entities in the government or powerful institutions are roaming around without check, where the media is under constant pressure by the government and by the agencies and the outspoken media personalities are under constant threat, the new US administration would not be very friendly with Pakistan. Also, if the US troops in Afghanistan would be attacked by fringe factions of the Taliban, Pakistan would be coming under pressure.

Joe Biden is not Barack Obama. I believe during the early months of Obama’s presidency, Joe Biden was like his mentor. So we may observe the similarities in President Biden’s policies and President Obama’s policies during 2009. However, due to extreme polarization in the US – which is expected to grow further after the challenges of election results – President Biden will have a strong uphill battle domestically, so how aggressively he would pursue his foreign policy goals? Only time will tell.

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Naya Daur