Saturday, November 07, 2020

A new dawn has broken, has it not?

There's only one thing on all of our minds today. The election of decency back to the office of the President of the USA. Sorry for the headline (not sorry).

We've been glued to CNN all week, a change from our usual global 24 hour news channel of choice, France24. I could listen to John King all day long. 

It's hard to comprehend what an unpleasant and repugnant force Trump has been. The powerful reaction from CNN's Van Jones hit that home. ""Every day you're waking up and you're getting these tweets and you just don't know, and you are going to the store and the people who were once afraid to show their racism are getting nastier and nastier to you." That got me. Trump enabled all of that. In our country, we get a glimpse of it from the likes of Farage, but not from the leader of our country, aside from a few stupid old jokes, not at that scale, and frankly you can barely imagine it. In time we'll look back and be baffled not just at how he was elected but that how normalised his outrageous, ungraceful, rude style of governing became. Pundit Sam Harris described Trump's appeal and strategy as allowing people to feel OK about the worst version of themselves, someone incapable of casting moral judgement on people by default makes them feel fine about being hateful and racist.

I've been in a global echo chamber of like minded happy people today, which has made Twitter fun again (notably, John Niven has been immense). I have made a half hearted attempt to try and think of the opposite point of view. What has Trump done that's been good? Frankly, it's a short list. Taking out the Iranian General, maybe? Standing up to China, possibly? I do hear the cry that he's made a political cause of working people in left behind communities, but he harvested their votes and made them his base without any coherent economic plan, and did so on the premise of trade war with China, almost America's version of our false prospectus of Brexit.

Biden's election is also a headache for the Boris Johnson government, as if they didn't have enough problems. A US trade deal that rides roughshod over the Good Friday agreement won't wash. And if I was an official in the Biden team, the mealy mouthed comments of Dominic Raab, our Foreign Secretary, would push the interests of the UK a little further down the list of priorities. 

At some point quite soon, Biden and Harris will have to make really difficult decisions - the kind of test of character that Presidents have to make. The obvious first one being a proper response that takes COVID-19 seriously.

They'll also be asked to tack left by the Bernie Sanders crowd, and rising stars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Congressional Progressive Caucus. The stoked up culture wars will be a further test. I had an immediate taste of it with a tweet about Iraq. But Biden has spent all of his political life negotiating and triangulating, finding a solution, working around the table, not just being righteous. He also has a strong Vice President, possibly the next President, at his side.

Many of us Brits are aware of Biden's shortcomings. Right now I'm very much looking forward to his acceptance speech. I just hope he starts it with - "We're ALRIGHT!" 

credits: illustration by Stanley Chow, punchline by Patrick Maguire.

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