Many challenges for Biden to heal a disunited America

By Vijay Badhwar

In the end Mr Trump went quietly, unceremoniously, even disgracefully: impeached twice. His social trumpet snatched away from him, he holed himself in the White House for his last few days as the 45th one-term US president.

Donald Trump did not attend the Inauguration Ceremony, the first time an outgoing president doing so in US history. Mr Biden took oath devoid of audience presence. Flags, instead, replaced the audience, symbolising the tragedy of nearly 400,000 Covid-19 deaths.

The new President went to work straightaway, trying to undo instantly the tumultuous four Trump years with 17 Executive Orders, including mandatory masks, allowing Muslim immigration, joining the World Health Organisation and Paris Accord on climate change and stopping the Mexico wall among his top priorities.

Kamala Harris’ swearing-in as Vice-President was a historic moment, the first time a woman, that too, of colour and from an immigrant family, rising to such heights. They made a great Democrats team to win the election, working out the crucial strategy to register new voters and making sure they exercised their right to vote. In the past, disenfranchised votes, comprising mostly black voters, made Democrats lose elections, the mistake corrected this time with Kamala Harris’ major input.

Her ancestral village, Thulasendrapuram near Chennai, erupted in celebrations with fireworks and puja ceremonies at the local temple as Kamala Harris was sworn-in as Vice-President.

Mr Biden won with a margin of more than seven million votes, a fact Mr Trump could never come to terms with. He considered the nearly 105 million mail-in votes – nearly two-thirds of all votes – to be big frauds and only reckoned the day’s votes in person to be the legitimate ones. For him it was all a lie, a steal and he went to great lengths pleading with everyone for a recount, filing court cases and even threatening his own party lawmakers with consequences if they did not challenge the otherwise fair election. The reality was different for him; he was lost in the whirlpool of his own world, his alternative truths.

As voters were confined indoors due to virus and Trump team created hurdles for postal voting, electoral offices set up their own boxes where they collected votes everyday and sent confirmation email to voters that their votes had been received.

Mr Trump’s achievements, according to him, were many: creating secure borders, reducing taxes and regulations, rebuilding American manufacturing base, opening factories and starting no new wars. He was, indeed, an out-of-box thinker and not tied down by rules.

Being anti-establishment, he hired and fired his team at his whim, except for his family who remained his closest advisers. They dictated his Middle Eastern policies to great advantage for Israel and Saudi Arabia.

But Mr Trump broke away from traditional allies in Europe. The European Union President von der Leyen welcomed his displacement from the helm, saying, “This new dawn in America is the moment we have been waiting for so long…Joe Biden’s oath will be a message of healing for a deeply divided nation,” she said.

Mr Trump’s major failures were at home, creating racial divides and his reluctance to act to contain the spread of Covid-19 virus which so far has infected nearly 24 million Americans and caused more than 400,000 deaths. His public undermining the risks by not using the masks and downplaying the dangers from virus, dramatising an infection himself and then recovering in three days, was itself significant in spreading the virus to a large extent.

The racial divide Trump encouraged created a cult-like extreme right following for him and ultimately led to the January 6 pandemonium at the Capitol that resulted in his second impeachment, the first time an American President has been so disgraced. There is looming possibility that he may be barred from politics and criminal charges laid against him when the Senate sits in the coming months to endorse the impeachment.

His ban from social media, however, is not without controversy. Although seemingly justified for taking a moral high ground in this instance, it abdicates roles that governments play, handing over reigns to big social media giants to dictate and even manipulate outcomes in future.

The Twitter-Facebook ban may be an overreach and insistence on second impeachment by Democrats was a payback time to settle scores, to silence once and for all the aberration in US political history the outsider President had caused.

It’s back to traditional politics with dour Joe Biden who has a long public service record with well-regarded experience in foreign policy. But he has a mammoth task ahead to heal the mayhem from left-right and racial divide his predecessor has vandalised America with. His immediate challenge is also to contain and deal with the damage from COVID-19 virus that has wrecked havoc for the nation like in no other country in the world.

The Modi Government had invested heavily in Trump comeback with his showcased visit to India in February last year. There will be change of course with the change of Government in US as also Kamala Harris’ comments on abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir being considered a niggling interference by Hindu nationalists in India.

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