Monday July 22, 2024

What does Biden’s win mean?

Biden's victory gives undeniable proof that emotional rhetoric, exaggerated claims, hatred and disgraceful statements cannot turn back the wheel of political and social evolution

By Saleem Safi
November 18, 2020
US President-elect Joe BIden. File photo

At last, Donald Trump's chaotic and egotistical era of hatred, racism and narcissism came to a fatal end and Joe Biden won the American presidential race. Although Trump still harbours the delusion that he will remain the president of the US, through the help of the judiciary, it is nothing more than wishful thinking. The glaring reality is that he has lost the presidential bid with a clear margin.

Trump's defeat and Biden's victory gives undeniable proof that emotional rhetoric, exaggerated claims, hatred and disgraceful statements may bring temporary political change but cannot turn back the wheel of political and social evolution. Undemocratic behaviour and coercive measures could cause a temporary break, but sooner or later the collective conscience of the nation awakes, and social realities come into action. This collective political conscience has ousted Donald Trump from office in the US, and may just be gaining momentum in Pakistan as well.

Four years back, Trump came into power against the will of the American establishment, via popular rhetoric. He continued to move in the opposite direction even after becoming president. But Imran Khan’s case is completely different in that aspect. However, Donald Trump and Imran Khan have a lot of things in common; Imran Khan has admitted the commonality in his interview to Der Spiegel. Most analysts in the US consider Trump as a narrow-minded, egotistical, illiberal, and intolerant ruler; Imran Khan is said to share the same traits as Trump.

Since Trump enjoyed considerable independence, his negative sentiment reflected in his action on the external front and other initiatives. But since Imran Khan is a Pakistani brand with limited playing ground, his easy and only targets are political opponents and dissenting media.

The US is known for its cherished ideals of liberty and equality for all. But Trump, in the name of change, severely damaged these sacred values by hatred and racism. Imran also damaged, in his pursuit of so-called change, the traditional values of Pakistani society which is known for decency and respect for elders and women.

Trump polarized American politics and society; Imran has done the same in Pakistan. Trump came into power with the help of his massive wealth and shrewdness and without any strong support from the media. But the Pakistani media played a decisive role in making Imran Khan a leader and proving him a messiah. After coming into power, both Trump and Imran turned against the media and tried to silence dissenting voices.

Since institutions are strong in the US, Trump could not hit the American media financially and relied only on the abuse of media houses and persons with his derogatory remarks. But Imran Khan has not only abused the media but also hit it financially, imposed restrictions, and even imprisoned media leaders like Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Due to Trump's extreme egotism, his team would be under extreme pressure – which is why he used to keep changing his team members frequently. Even after the recent election, he changed his defence secretary. Imran Khan too has the same issue, and he changes ministers, advisers and bureaucrats at will. Only Trump's son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, has been consistent with Trump. In Imran Khan's government, this status is enjoyed by Azam Khan, the principal secretary to the prime minister.

Trump would go on long tirades against his political opponents; Imran is second to none in this regard. Trump undermined and damaged the overwhelming trust and confidence of the people and the world in the US political system and institutions, while Imran Khan did the same in Pakistan.

In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidential election unexpectedly – and contrary to the analysis and polls. He did not question the credibility of the US electoral system when he won. But when he lost the 2020 presidential election, he raises fingers at the electoral system and has claimed massive rigging in the election.

When Imran Khan lost the 2013 election, he staged a 'dharna' in protest and locked-down the capital. But when he won the much controversial 2018 election, all was well for him. He makes life unbearable for anyone who questions the result of the 2018 election. In fact, for his sake, not only the credibility of the electoral system but the sanctity of the judiciary, parliament (Senate) and NAB was also damaged.

Trump's foreign policy was a victim of turmoil, confusion and unpredictability. He made the US a laughingstock through his statements and behaviour. One day he would call Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man” and “short and fat”, and would threaten North Korea with “fire and fury”, but the next day he would schedule a meeting with the North Korean leader. One day he would end talks with the Taliban by threatening them, and the next day he would agree on negotiation and concede to nearly all their demands. Similarly, Imran Khan follows Trump's footprint in his foreign policy and has time and again created an embarrassing situation for Pakistan on the world stage.

Despite these glaring similarities, there is one difference between the two. Trump improved the US economy to some extent, but Imran Khan has caused more damage to Pakistan's economy by bringing down GDP growth down to negative.

The people of the US, fed up with Trump 'New USA', repented their 2016 mistakes and began a new journey back to the 'Old USA' by voting for Joe Biden. Unfortunately, the people of Pakistan are still facing the brunt of the 'New Pakistan' of Imran Khan. However, Trump's defeat gives a strong message that Trumpism and populism, whether American or Pakistani, are destined to fall sooner or later. Because these are not compatible with the 21st-century social awareness and political maturity of the people. In other words, “you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Due to the chaotic era of Trump, Joe Biden will face daunting challenges. The people of the US will be interested more about the changes that Biden's presidency will bring on the domestic front, but we are more interested in his foreign policy since that will impact Pakistan.

One of the fundamental changes that Joe Biden will bring in foreign policy is that the US will enhance its global role, which was considerably shrunk during Trump's tenure. For example, he will try to reach out to Iran and try for a nuclear deal. In the context of China, India's position as a beloved and strategic partner will remain the same but Biden's administration will keep a check on Indian human rights violations in Occupied Kashmir. Moreover, he will keep the Trump line on Afghanistan but will bring stricter conditions in dealing with the Taliban. Unlike Trump, he will not abandon Afghanistan by withdrawing all American troops. He has already stated that he will keep a limited military presence in Afghanistan. Like Trump, he will also see Pakistan in the context of Afghanistan, and he may ask us to ‘do more’.

As in the past, the US will see China as a major threat. Since Pakistan has strategic and friendly/brotherly relations with China, Islamabad will remain a thorn in the eyes of Washington as far as China is concerned. However, Biden will not show Trump-style impulsiveness and belligerence in his dealing with China. Instead of competing with China in a tribal way, he will pressurize China on the economic and diplomatic fronts.

Trump had no interest in democracy, human rights and freedom of the press in Pakistan or any other country, but Biden's priorities will likely include raising his voice on such issues in Pakistan and other countries.

The primary focus of every sovereign nation, whether it is the United States or any other country, is the pursuit of its national interests. The US will deal with Pakistan in the same context. However, the major difference between Trump and Biden is that Trump was unpredictable, and his rules of the game kept changing. Biden's rules of the game regarding Pakistan and Afghanistan will be predictable and clear, and thus help us prepare and plan accordingly.


The writer works for Geo TV.