Uncle Sam Is Not the Same Anymore

The United States, the nation that has always wanted to dominate the world, is different. What has changed in the land of Uncle Sam?

Everything in life is cyclical. Even a stable democracy, like the American one, is surprising when it is shaken as it was in the final days of the Donald Trump administration. Trump himself is an example of the political storms that a country can suffer.

It’s interesting to observe, in the case of the U.S., that for nearly 50 years, from Franklin Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan, the style of government was a strong, courageous and productive state. Even with a Republican, such as Dwight Eisenhower, or a Democrat, such as Lyndon Johnson, everything was stable – from the same song sheet.

However, what we’ve seen in the past four decades, is a quiet period of modest behavior. Bill Clinton commented: “[T]he era of big government is over.” Now, with Joe Biden in the driver’s seat, a period of change begins. And it is not just the governing style. The American president is not a bureaucrat like Russia’s Vladimir Putin; nor a financier like France’s Emmanuel Macron; nor a bigmouth like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

Biden is more “you” and less “I.” He does not create enemies to legitimize state policies, he opts to seek partners and change the historical narrative of those who governed before him. He does not get into the empty talk of anti-globalization.

Far from the growing populism, far from the imagery that there is a left-wing conspiracy against the world, Biden is a balanced and understated politician. Though he might not be politically astute, it’s reassuring that he does not cease to govern with the intent to perform. Proof of this: with very little time in the White House – without fuss – he has already approved three stimulus packages totaling $4 trillion.

Biden spent his first 100 days in office changing the course of almost all of his predecessor’s policies on COVID-19, the environment, security, immigration, healthcare, human rights and international relations. According to an NBC poll, Biden started his term with a 44% approval rating from the American public. In April, the rating grew to 50% considering his performance as good or great.

The American president has already indicated that taxes on large corporations will increase to better distribute income by reducing social inequities. Dreaming big in order to achieve as much as possible, he promises to invest in modern technologies. Less aggressive, more enterprising. In a very special way, he manages to act on two different sides, staying in the center and avoiding controversies.

What has changed in the U.S. is the identity of its main competitor. Russia exits, China enters. Instead of armed warfare, the dispute is now commercial. And this, of course, without giving up the image of the international defender of democracy. A new time, a new developmental vision of respecting human rights and sustainability.

In addition to the economic crisis, Biden also faces a healthcare crisis. Making a historic turn, he just announced his support for the suspension of patents of COVID-19 vaccines to speed up vaccine production in developing countries. And, on top of that, Biden responds to the democratic fragility inherited from the disastrous Trump administration. Finally, ongoing transformations have generated expectations of a historic American partnership in commerce and liberal ideology around the world, even here in Brazil. But lately Jair Bolsonaro’s government – still faithful to the style of Trump – remains interested in obtaining resources from the United States, supposedly, to protect the Amazon. Will Biden open the safe?

Ricardo Viveiros is a journalist, professor and writer.

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