The world has collectively taken a breath of fresh air. After a staggered election week, the American electorate has ejected – and elected – a president. Yet, this vote, which saw the most voted for two candidates in US history, embodies more than a concerted surge to the polls – it emboldens confidence in a system that has been ransacked, undermined and beaten by a deeply erroneous president.
Biden’s victory goes beyond the reinforcement of the longevity of the American state, as it emphatically underlines government for all – not just for an exclusive minority – and in doing so, it reaffirms the basis of loser’s consent, something which Trump has furiously circumvented. Biden, in his victory speech, emphasised that acknowledgement, which has reigned implicitly and explicitly in the words of every previous president to the incumbent: “there are no red states or blue states, but the United States”.
The US will almost certainly live with the consequences of the Trump presidency, despite being a one-term president. He has instilled a culture of hegemonic deference to himself rather than to the good of the American public, within the governing institutions of the state, which will take time to reverse. He has established a long-term conservative majority in the Supreme Court. And, by the 2020 election, he has popularised his brand of norm-crushing, populist enriched politics, that will continue in contemporary American political discourse.
But it is the Coronavirus pandemic – still actively spreading around the US population – that will be the major preoccupation of President-elect Biden. His predecessor has engaged in a mist of falsely propagated disinformation; touted grossly untrue medical advice; attacked medical experts; and held rallies and events without any enforcement of mask-wearing or social distancing.
Whilst it would be a dereliction of truth to blame Trump for Coronavirus, it would certainly be an accurate accusation to blame him for the toll of Coronavirus. Whilst it is certainly a constitutionally valid point to argue that a national lockdown would be legally disputed and feature infinitely jarring court battles, the role of a leader should not be to disparage, falsify; lie and undermine. They must lead. In Biden, for all his detractors and inconsistencies, a certain force of competency will be brought to the White House at a time when true leadership is most required. That vacuum, the world hopes, will immediately be filled.
When people talk about democracy in 2020, the conversation will immediately hark back to the US election, and how, during a global health crisis, people’s voices weren’t condemned to silence, nor their interests neglected in favour of the common good. Deep racial, political and social issues dominated media discourse, and an electorate rejuvenated to fight for their future. Yet, similar trajectories have taken place elsewhere.
Bolivia and Chile, despite widely different cultural and social contexts, moved to further their citizens’ hands in their respective processes. Bolivia, after a quasi-military coup in 2019 held free elections; following the rejection of a hard-right, unpopular and failed party governance. It emphatically welcomed the return of a left-wing government, which had, only a year ago, been condemned to nothingness.
The pandemic had an immense impact on the Bolivian population, reaching some of the highest death-ratios in the world. Now, despite immense challenges, the Bolivian people have mandated a fresh direction of travel, symbolizing the way democracy has been rejuvenated amid deep global and domestic struggle. Chile, on October 25th, saw broad consent for a new constitution to be developed, bringing an era of Pinochet-era authoritarian restraints that had systematically suppressed its virtues of democracy, to an end.
Those changes, once established, could have an enormous effect on democratic values in Chile, which had been on a downwards spiral for decades. The wider point, and one that is crucial to make, is that democracy is resilient. It can foster change; ease social tension; be responsive to the needs of its citizens, and most importantly, have a system which is broadly capable of governance and active citizenry. American citizens, Bolivian citizens, and Chilean citizens have, in recent weeks, displayed that even in the face of resounding despair.
In the US, Trump may seek to sew further division by compelling his voters to rebel or ‘fight back’, or as he has done since 2016, float absurd accusations that will be designed to distract and cause controversy. But he is a beaten president. There is no conspiracy. There is no deep state. There is, however, the ever-present, free-flowing voices of the people.
Just ask Bolivians and Chileans, who have fought desperately to combat abject poverty and misuses of power, how fundamental the values that democracy helps to promote are. Democracy will live on, but it needs people to defend it. With Trump gone, and 2020 almost behind us, this year may serve to be the catalyst that world citizens needed to fight for fair democracy, and hold those who curtail it, to account.