President Biden

President Biden

By David Runciman and Catherine Carr

Now that we have a result, David and Helen reflect on what the next four years might hold. What issues could define a Biden presidency? Has this election indicated a possible realignment of American politics? And is it enough to restore faith in democratic politics? If Trump is not how democracy ends, where does the real danger lie?

Talking Points:

Biden faces three big issues: China, climate, and COVID.

It’s probably not possible to go back to US-China relations pre-Trump. However, China does perceive this election as significant.Making climate a priority has implications for the China relationship.

This was too close to be a realignment election. Both parties turned out their vote because they had oppositional energy.

But there are shifts within. Florida went red, but people voted to increase the minimum wage. California went blue, but people voted to resist the unionization of essentially Lyft and Uber workers.Trump has opened up the possibility for a more cross-racial, working class Republican Party. These shifts are still small, but it will be hard for them to go back to being a party of tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, and cultural conservatism.It’s more complicated for the Democrats. There has been a shift to the left, but there are also deep divisions in the party.

A lot of the ‘Trump is how democracy ends story’ didn’t add up. How can American democracy have been so vulnerable, and yet so easily restored?   

The threats to democracy: COVID, climate, and China, don’t fit electoral cycles.American democracy faces huge medium to long term challenges; too much energy has gone into short term risks.Trump has allowed people to close their eyes to deeper structural problems.

Trump’s presidency did have serious geopolitical implications.

He changed American policy on China; most of the political class now regards China as a serious strategic rival.He changed relations with Iran, and, in doing so, relations with Europe.He pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Mentioned in this Episode:

China, climate, COVID: the new energy mapDavid’s book, How Democracy EndsDavid on TP: How Democracy EndsJoe Biden’s victory speech

Further Learning:

Biden’s endorsement interview with the NYTimes (on big tech and other things)Talking Politics American Histories: Monopoly and MuckrakingStacey Abrams’ fight for a fair vote, from The New Yorker

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here:

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