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Beyond Political Saviors: The Biden-Trump Quandary

March 29, 2024 at 9:57 am

U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and Former U.S. President Donald Trump (R). [Getty Images]

In his 2023 State of the Union address, US President Joe Biden, now 81, made lofty promises about tackling inflation, fighting climate change, reforming immigration policies and working for “more freedom, more dignity and more peace”.

The implicit, but always obvious, message that Biden wanted to convey is that only a Democratic administration, under his leadership, should be able to help Washington navigate out of its many and growing problems and challenges.

However, newspeak and false claims aside, any reasonable analyst must conclude that the Biden Administration has failed the tasks at hand, and that four, or 40 more years of the same policies would hardly reverse the unpromising trajectory faced by his country.

It is easy to claim that Biden has not originated the problems, which the US is currently facing, whether domestically or internationally. It is even easier to blame the previous administration of Donald Trump and others before him for the multiple crises underway.

However, this cannot be true. To begin with, we would be amiss to ignore the fact that Biden has played a major part in shaping US policies over the course of decades – not only as an influential Senator for 36 years but also as a Vice-President between 2009 and 2017.

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Then, there are the matters of problems created or sustained by previous democratic and republican administrations. Indeed, the US, regardless of who resided in the White House, played a role in worsening an already bad situation in East Europe, following the dismantling of the Soviet Union and its various political and geopolitical blocs.

The age of Barack Obama, with Biden as a Vice President, was hardly dedicated to conflict resolution and peaceful co-existence. Most of the problems that exist today existed back then. This includes issues pertaining to migration policies and border crises, social and economic inequality within the US, several cold war fronts with Russia, China and elsewhere.

Very little was done to significantly alter any of the damage caused by these problems. In fact, it was Obama, not Trump, who had invested in the so-called ‘pivot to Asia’ – the retreat from the Middle East following the failed Iraq war – to contain China’s growing influence in the South China Sea and the Pacific regions.

Departing the Middle East was not part of any major policy program that invested in facilitating a peaceful solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, or to the myriad of other problems that have afflicted the region, especially following the Iraq war in 2003.

It was done haphazardly, creating a power vacuum that was filled by state and non-state actors. The repercussions of all of this left the Middle East vulnerable to the kind of unprecedented wars which are being experienced today.

Nor did the ‘pivot to Asia’ bring about an actual vision of co-existence between the powerful China, the US and their various allies. “I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules. We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration – and it’s made a difference,” Obama said in 2012. In fact, it made no difference.

On the other hand, Republicans, especially in recent years, have invested in a political discourse that can only exist in negation, simply pointing out the failures of their political opponents, instead of thinking of ways to bring a divided nation together.

Trump had succeeded in winning enough support in the 2016 elections based on promises of “draining the swamp in Washington” and, by that, he meant challenging both the traditional Democratic and Republican institutions.

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He had succeeded then, and he is succeeding once more, now that he is the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party.

“The 2024 election is our one shot to save our country and we need a leader who’s ready to do that on day one,” he said. But how is this any different from what he has said before?

Though Trump’s supporters claim that the country was better off during his only term in office, there are few non-biased indications demonstrating such a claim.

On the foreign policy front, Trump often spoke about “solving wars in 24 hours” but very little was fixed over the course of four years.

In June 2019, Trump met with Kim Jong Un of North Korea, to supposedly, once and for all, end the never-ending war on the Korean peninsula. Not only was that never achieved, things worsened since then, now that both countries are much closer to the precipice of war.

The same scenario was repeated in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East and elsewhere. The artless “art of the deal” is yet to yield any of the grand promises, ones that are situated in quick fixes and firm handshakes.

The sad truth is that the American people are, once more, beholden to the same logic, which has been tried for at least the last eight years – Trump’s only term and Biden’s first, and possibly last term.

The two politicians are already exchanging barbs and accusations, while dancing around the issues that matter the most. Numerous American politicians, talking heads, and ordinary people are, once more, taking their places in the trenches of political polarization and opportunism.

Based on historical experience and common sense, there are two major truths that one can easily glean from all of this: First, the toxic politics that currently exist in the US will continue to make matters worse and, second, regardless of who will become the next president, none of Washington’s major problems will magically disappear.

America’s challenge is hardly finding the right political savior to help the country escape its mounting problems. What is truly needed is a new social contract, which transcends politics, to help people find their common ground beyond tribal affiliations. Perhaps then, some hope is possible.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.