Home » Columns » A moment of reckoning | HT Editorial – editorials

A moment of reckoning | HT Editorial – editorials

The United States (US) presidential election is a fork in the road for the future of the world’s most powerful nation and, therefore, the international system as a whole. This is reflected in the contrasting personalities of the candidates. Donald Trump personifies almost everything deemed fatal to the electoral chances of a US presidential candidate, with his not-so-subtle racism, erratic and almost absurd public pronouncements, and absence of leadership skills. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is cut from the same establishment cloth that has determined Washington’s values and worldview for decades.

Mr Trump’s rise reflects a deeper failure in the US system to address the growing immiseration of its working class. He is a beneficiary of this inequality and, ironically, given his background, the political voice of the anger stemming from it. Mr Biden’s weakness is that he is part of the system that is seen as having failed by about half the US population. Fortunately for him, Covid-19 and Mr Trump’s toxic character have made this an election about opposing the president rather than favouring Mr Biden.

A second Trump administration will see a continuing erosion of the US’s public institutions. It will also see socially conservative views, drawn from extreme religious views, make inroads into the American system. On the other hand, the Trump administration has shown a greater willingness to call a spade a spade in the international sphere than it was thought possible by a US government. A disinterest in US interventions in West Asia and a willingness to directly confront China are two manifestations — and both have worked in favour of Indian interests. A Biden administration would see some effort to address the social issues that led to Mr Trump’s rise. Many of its solutions would mirror those of the present administration, including backtracking from free trade and a renewed support for State-funded industrial policies. There are a number of urgent issues on which a President Biden would be a major improvement, most notably the climate crisis. Given India’s overall interests, the real expectation from a Biden administration would be the restoration of legitimacy at home so that the US can maintain pre-eminence overseas.

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