Divided
FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2020 - 12:00am

It will probably take a few more days before a definitive winner could be declared in the crucial US presidential elections. This is because in the vital states, the margins are razor thin.

It will take longer because votes from US military personnel overseas are still being awaited. It will take longer because it is likely the Trump camp will demand a recount and bring the count to court.

This fact might be snowed under: the count in some states is slow because the Trump campaign went to court to prevent early canvassing of the mail-in votes. Last heard, Trump was claiming fraud because those votes are finally being counted.

Whatever the final outcome will be, this we can be sure of: America is as deeply divided as ever. This year’s presidential election sharpened that. It did not diminish it.

Joe Biden has tallied the highest number of votes won by a presidential candidate in US history. That is just half the story. Donald Trump, after four years of a truly bizarre presidency, is tallying 5 million votes more than he won in 2016.

Voter turnout for this election is awesome. People lined up for hours to cast their votes. Millions voted by mail.

Democrats prematurely celebrated the exceedingly large voter turnout. They thought this signaled a “Blue Wave” that will bring both the US Congress and the presidency under their party’s control.

That did not happen. The Democrats did not win control of the Senate. No Republican seeking reelection in the House of Representatives lost. In fact, the Republicans won additional seats in the House – although not enough to wrest control.

Most visible of all, Joe Biden, although poised to win, will not be swept to power by a history-changing landslide. He will, in all likelihood, creep to power in what will probably be the closest presidential contest in US history.

What the outcome of this election means is that all of the malignant factors that enabled a creature like Trump to inflict himself on American politics are alive and well. A thin margin of voters might slay Trump. But Trumpism is still there.

Unable to wrest control of the Senate, the Democrats must anticipate that this chamber will stymie any change in policy by the incoming Biden administration. The old duo of Republican Senate leaders have managed to get themselves reelected.

Although he ran as the candidate of hope, the wily Republican politicians could make Biden’s presidency one of frustration.

But at the very least, Biden will return the US to the Paris climate accord. He could try to introduce policies that will hasten the transition to greener technologies.

This is what is most important for us in this threatened archipelago. Any progress towards arresting climate change will help protect us from the effects of severe weather.

It is probably beyond Biden to heal what is wrong with American society. The division will persist long beyond his lifetime. This is what the numbers tell us.

But at the very least, he will not aggravate what is wrong with American society. He will not further polarize an already dangerously polarized political situation. He will not throw fuel to the fire like Trump just did with his ridiculous claims the election is being stolen from him and that wholesale fraud is going on.

Biden could help win back the world’s respect for US foreign policy. He will not be a provocateur flirting with war. He will not be as naïve as Trump who believes the problem in the Korean peninsula has been solved only because he shook hands with a dangerous tyrant.

Given America’s tight fiscal position, we should not expect Biden to dramatically ramp up US development aid to the poor countries. But he will likely continue his country’s support for multilateral institutions such as the UN and the WHO.

Biden will have a very large house to fix. It is not likely that he would spend much time trying to solve the world’s problems. But at the very least he will not further compound the problems that hound the rest of humanity with irresponsible demagoguery.

At his age, Biden will very likely serve only one term. He has himself described his role as transitional.

But given the quagmire that is American politics, the rest of the world is waiting to see what that transition will lead to.

Trump has escalated the hate, the distrust, the disrespect for truth and science so much it seems it will take many years to repair all the damage he inflicted.

Spike

It is not only the deepening divisions in American society that makes the world anxious. While everyone was busy watching the suspenseful counting of the votes, a horrible spike in infections happened in the US.

The day after the elections, over 102,000 more Americans were infected. Two days after the elections, over 120,000 more Americans fell victim to COVID-19.

These are not aberrations resulting from Trump’s super-spreader rallies. This is a long trend.

The American people are not just dealing with a poisoned politics. They are dealing with a pandemic that has simply spiked out of control because of Trump’s incompetent and hyper-politicized leadership.

For as long as the pandemic runs rampant within US borders, it will remain a threat to the rest of humanity. The world cannot put this virus under control until the US deals with it more effectively.

Set aside for the moment all abstract concerns about American moral leadership in the world. We cannot revive the global economy until infections are brought down.

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