Whether It’s Trump or Biden, America Is MAGA Anyway

Trump represents disorder and Biden, stability, but it is not a simple dichotomy. In a fixed “America First” era, is South Korea prepared?

The United States presidential election is nine months away, and U.S. President Joe Biden has kick-started his campaign for reelection. Many Koreans are worried that if the Republican Party’s Donald Trump is elected, the world will be thrown into chaos; however, if Biden is reelected, then it’s expected that strong alliances and stability will be maintained. A U.S. political figure who recently visited Seoul said, “This dichotomy of Koreans is a dangerous way of thinking that is far from reality,” and “We must understand that Biden, who only looks out for U.S.’s benefit, is just as MAGA-oriented as Trump.” MAGA, an acronym for “Make America Great Again,” is Trump’s election slogan, but Biden’s policy and pledge also state a similar goal.

If the illusion caused by Trump’s aggressive character is removed, it’s clear that Biden has inherited and reinforced many parts of the U.S. supremacy policies pushed by Trump. Biden has not reduced the high tariffs, averaging about 20%, that Trump imposed on China. Instead, he is pressuring allied countries to strengthen their blockade on China. In addition, Biden has not restored policies neutralized by Trump, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the North American Free Trade Agreement, as well as multilateral trade agreements. As the Financial Times observed, Biden’s administration has retained most of these Trump-era policies — and even built on them.”

Trump pressured South Korea to share defense costs with an increase of almost 600% – impossible, because it was too radical. As soon as the Biden administration was in place, it promoted a 14% increase in contributions, the highest rate of increase since 2004. Foreign Policy’s assessment is that “Biden puts a kinder, gentler spin on ‘America First’.”

Under Trump’s pressure to break the United States–Korea Free Trade Agreement, the South Korean government has given up early removal of tariffs on cargo trucks while barely keeping the FTA alive. The Biden administration, to maintain high truck tariffs, did not put aside one Trump-era decision and instead is imposing additional tariffs on steel. Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is replete with measures that will make the U.S. self-sufficient from a list of major South Korean imports, such as cars and semiconductors.

Robert Lighthizer, who served as U.S. trade representative during the Trump administration, wrote a book last year titled, “No Trade is Free: Changing Course, Taking on China, and Helping America’s Workers.” He asserted – with close-minded logic – that the goal of U.S. trade policy should focus on supporting U.S. trade and workers. Trump says he bought thousands of copies and sent them to his campaign workers to study, but even Democratic Party members are underlining parts while reading, agreeing that it is the way forward.

In 2019, when Lighthizer led an effort to effectively kill the U.S.-Canada-Mexico free trade deal, formerly known as NAFTA, the House passed the deal by a 385-41 vote. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and a Trump foe, joined in. “America First” is almost the only agenda that unites a deeply divided Congress. “Trump’s victory in 2016 forced Democrats to take the plight and anger of U.S. workers much more seriously,” says the Financial Times. Biden has concluded that he must “break with a 40-year-old consensus on trade, globalisation and China,” according to FT’s analysis of what has caused the bipartisan MAGA movement.

Some time ago when Biden was begging Congress to pass the Ukraine support bill, he said, “And when we use the money allocated by Congress, we use it to replenish our own stores — our own stockpiles with new equipment — equipment that defends America and is made in America: Patriot missiles for air defense batteries made in Arizona; artillery shells manufactured in 12 states across the country — in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas; and so much more.”

It’s a Trumpian logic that frames every issue in terms of “America First.” Many experts believe that a stronger American MAGA will sweep the world in the future, whether it is with Trump, Biden or someone else. What kind of strategy should South Korea establish in response to the era of ‘selfish America’? If we must give up something in order to protect the rest, have we got our priorities straight? Right now, I think that this is the most important issue we face. It’s not the time to argue about Biden – or anyone or anything else.

About this publication

About Krystal Endo 12 Articles
Hello! My name is Krystal and I've been studying Korean for almost 10 years now. My Bachelors is in Linguistics, with a Minor in Korean and TESOL. I currently live with my husband, 2 cats and 2 snakes. I'm excited to translate for Watching America!

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