The major US media outlets have announced a result: Joe Biden will be the next president.
As expected, it took a while to count the ballots, and there surely will be legal and political challenges, but this is an opportunity to begin looking forward.
The result caps off an election defined by its ugliness, with Trump launching attacks on Biden’s physical and mental health, intelligence, record and even his family while calling for him to be investigated, prosecuted and imprisoned by the federal government.
The past four years have seen a dramatic setback for foreign relationships, free press, Paris Climate Agreement, WHO, human rights and many other important areas both within the United States and in US policy abroad. There is now an exclusive opportunity for a new beginning.
For the new President elect Mr Biden is that it is not enough to turn the clock back four years. The world has changed. So must the US government’s response.
Within the United States, the combination of the pandemic and the protests for racial justice have laid bare longstanding deficiencies. Mr Biden needs to do far better to ensure that people are not left behind and that entrenched discrimination does not push them further back. For example, he must work to heal a national politics that seems to have lost sight of the community—the recognition of common humanity—that underlies any successful nation.
Wise policy must be informed by facts. The free press ability to gather the facts honestly and objectively can help to move beyond the spin and selectivity that has dominated recent policymaking. This ability to measure policies against the widely accepted moral framework of human rights can help to shape policies that reflect people’s needs rather than the perceived political interests of the moment. A President with a global perspective can help move the United States beyond the parochialism that has done so much damage to the country’s reputation and the welfare of people around the world.
These are not easy tasks, but they are essential!
7. November 2020 – Birch comment.