The US More Divided than Ever

Joe Biden will face two irreconcilable, culturally opposed, socially incommunicable Americas. He will govern as he can, not as he wants.

Joe Biden is preparing to become the 46th president of the U.S., succeeding the controversial, catastrophic, turbulent and unprepared Donald Trump. They were the two most voted for presidential candidates in the history of the country.

However, it is quite worrying that Trump voters voted for an individual devoid of any decency, a reckless person who doesn’t hesitate to call into question even the most sacred act in a democracy: an election. Biden’s great experience and values reflect the ethic needed to restore both the unity of the American people and the duty of international cooperation with respect to trust and peace.

Biden proposes to restore American leadership in the world, reversing the unilateralism of the Trump administration. The priority, though, is undoubtedly domestic policy. The task calls for healing the deep wounds of a much divided, polarized and weakened country. A president’s most significant assignment is to turn a tribalized society into an institutional community.

Nonetheless, Barack Obama has a point when he says he is “cautiously optimistic,” considering that Biden won, but the United States continues to lose. No democracy is governable with such levels of polarization. This election, what happened before it, and what is yet to come, reveal that states are by no means united. They are split into two separate groups that don’t listen, that refuse to even talk to each other, and have values and truths with no common ground.

A community lives on the bridges built by its members. It lives by a set of common values and principles. It lives by shared truths. It is unlikely for a community to survive a tension as great as the one happening in the U.S.

First, Biden has to face a troubled transition period, which is coinciding with the need to present an effective plan to fight the pandemic and restore the economy. The president-elect has a decades-long career in the Senate, and served as Obama’s vice president. He is a moderate, a centrist, and unquestionably a politician capable of building bridges and reaching bipartisan agreements, which are essential but very difficult to reach when Republicans hold a majority in the Senate.

Conversely, it is possible that Trump — with the strong vote he received — will remain a relevant figure for the Republicans. His defeat is far from marking the end of Trumpism in the U.S. It is a populist, anti-democratic, ultraconservative, and authoritarian movement that is truly global and, therefore, will continue to pose a threat to democracy not only in the U.S., but throughout the world.

Trump lost the election, but Trumpism grew and survived. It is crucial to point out that many of those who voted for Trump did not do so out of being hopelessly enamored with him, but because they had serious reasons to be dissatisfied. They were severely affected by the effects of globalization, free trade agreements, the rise of automation and robotics, the financial collapse of 2007-2008, the Great Recession that followed, the income stagnation for more than three decades, and the significant growth of inequality.

Biden will face two irreconcilable, culturally opposed, socially incommunicable Americas. He will govern as he can, not as he wants. Biden has already defined himself as a transitional president, and maybe he will serve only one term. What will come after this transition is uncertain. Trump has already threatened that he could return in 2024.

Trump remains tremendously strong. His vote totals increased, he has power he can exercise in the media, and he can influence the future of the Republican Party or even create a new party. He can try to act on the decision concerning the future candidate of the Republican Party and ensure that it be someone close to him or even from his family.

Internationally, Trump has supported several nonliberal leaders who, like him, are more concerned with their own political survival than with the democratic health of their countries. These leaders see no use for human rights, except when they selectively invoke them out of self-interest.

Under Trump’s turbulent mandate, the U.S. openly renounced the guardianship of the “liberal order.” However, let us not be fooled into thinking that the victory of his Democratic opponent, Biden, will represent an immediate return to the world of yesterday.

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