Beating Trump in US presidential election is just first of many hurdles for Biden

PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - It may have been a narrow win, but it was decisive: A majority of Americans by any measure - popular vote or Electoral College - rejected four more years of Donald J. Trump.

And despite intense pressure from crowds, court cases and conspiracy theorists, its dogged democratic process did not fail the United States of America.

It will not be easy for President-elect Joe Biden to manage a bitterly divided country. But he brings vast experience from almost half a century of navigating Washington and the world, eight of those years as vice-president to Mr Barack Obama.

And very significantly, Mr Biden, 77, represents a bridge to Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, 56, who will be the first black woman and first person of South Asian descent to hold the nation's second-highest office, placing her a heartbeat from the presidency itself, and in pole position for a run at the White House in 2024.

The Democratic Party ticket's win came on the back of a record turnout of 160 million, according to preliminary data - a fallout, analysts say, of the intense polarisation and sense of urgency over this election. And that in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

"We owe this win to black, indigenous, young people of colour, and new immigrant voters who flooded the polls despite significant barriers to fight for a better future for all of us," the Biden-Harris advocacy group 350.org said.

Mr Biden, who is due to be inaugurated on Jan 20 next year, is already putting together a transition team, though President Trump is still insisting he has been cheated of victory, and may take his battle to the courts.

Nevertheless analysts expect that, if all goes to plan, in his first weeks in office, Mr Biden is likely to restore climate change to the centre of policymaking in Washington, with the US recommitting to the Paris Agreement on curbing global warming.

Dr Andrew Steer, president and chief executive of the World Resources Institute, said in an e-mail: "It's a new day for issues that are critical for Americans' health and well-being and for the planet."

The US will also very likely re-engage with the World Health Organisation, and will likely restart diplomatic dialogue with Iran. A more broad-based dialogue with China will likely resume even as strategic competition remains.

Essentially, after four years of personality-centric megaphone diplomacy from Mr Trump, Mr Biden will restore a measure of traditional diplomacy, including repairing relations with allies in Europe and Asia jolted by Mr Trump's abrasive transactional approach.

Internal tension in the US will certainly still be hard to navigate.

"Trumpism will remain a major force in US politics," said professor of international politics Inderjeet Parmar at the City, University of London.

"A powerful Left aided by Black Lives Matter and… young people indebted and raging against climate change will demand radical reforms; and the world will be wary of US unpredictability and the possible return of Trump in 2024," Dr Parmar told The Sunday Times.

"The pandemic and its economic fallout demand massive state action at least temporarily," he said.

On the diplomatic front, he thought a Biden administration would seek to restore a semblance of normalcy.

Milken Institute Asia fellow Curtis Chin, a former US ambassador to the Asian Development Bank, told ST that the new administration may seek to heal a divided nation.

"At home, a Biden administration must address a historic collision of economic, health and social crises. And abroad, many will look to see how a new administration will build on, change or reject policies that the Trump administration pursued - from tariffs on China to restrictions on immigration."

For live updates and results, follow our US election live coverage.