Reflections on the US Election

New president faces many challenges

By Stuart Bell, a first year BA History & Politics student

This article is part of our series ‘Reflections on the US Election’

Donald Trump proved the polls and the media wrong yet again, with the predicted ‘blue wave’ not materialising. He still received the second highest number of votes in US election history, with over 70 million votes and winning in key states such as Florida and Ohio. Similar patterns were seen in the Congressional elections. Despite not winning the House, Republicans made significant gains – winning at least 12 seats previously held by the Democrats – and the party has a strong chance of holding control of the Senate.

With Joe Biden elected as the 46th President of the United States, I feel that this result is damaging to the ‘special relationship’ that exists between the US and UK and that the next 4 years could be unpredictable and challenging. This is due to Biden not being a supporter of Brexit (compared to President Trump) which could lead to problems in the hope of a favourable trade deal being struck between the US and UK, especially if the UK leaves the transition period without a deal. 

This could mean the UK is pushed to the ‘back of the queue’ as former President Barack Obama stated before the UK voted to leave in 2016. Also, Biden may focus more on building better relations with the remaining 27 EU countries which had a challenging relationship with President Trump during his time in office.

As for the US itself, in the short term it will be a challenge for Biden to try and bring the nation together, as the country is more divided than it has been for a generation due to the election and the Coronavirus pandemic. The issue of race has also caused there to be an increase in tensions, especially after the death of George Floyd. Violence erupted in many cities, with further tensions prompted by the tearing down of statutes. This must be a priority for Biden and Harris as America cannot move forward if it is not united.

Turning to the immediate challenge of handling the pandemic, the outcome of the election leaves as many questions as it does answers. How Coronavirus continues to affect the US will play a very important role in how the economy rebounds and whether the potential vaccines prove to be effective or not in the long-term.

Thinking about broader foreign policy, the next four years will contrast with the last four. Biden has signalled taking a different approach to Trump’s ‘America First’ policy. Trump’s approach had challenged organisations such as NATO where certain member countries weren’t committed to spending 2% of their GDP on defence, and he pulled America out of the Paris Climate Accord, saying that it would damage the US economy and cost American jobs. Trump also took on China, which had been trading unfairly for years, and he helped forge peace in the Middle East between Israel and the UAE, along with being the first president since Carter to not bring the US in a new conflict. 

Biden’s foreign policy will aim to try and repair relations with allies. He will move America back into the forefront of the political world by re-joining the Paris Climate accord, the World Health Organisation, and will play a major role in NATO. The US will most likely play a major role in these over the next four years, helping to determine what direction they take. 

What type of trade deal the UK will eventually strike with the US is unpredictable due to the question of the border between Northern Ireland and the EU and Biden’s comments on the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement. 

Finally, it should be noted that the current election season in the US is not yet over. How a Biden-Harris administration will be able to govern will be strongly shaped by the outcome of two Senate run-off races in the state of Georgia in January. And as one election season comes to an end, the next one won’t be far off. The mid-terms in less than two years’ time will also determine how much key legislation the Biden-Harris administration is able to pass.