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January 22, 2021

American dreams

Editorial

 
January 22, 2021

The 46th president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, a long-standing Democratic Party senator, took oath of office on Wednesday in the federal capital Washington DC, bringing an end to the era of Donald Trump. In keeping with his time in office, Trump himself did not attend the inauguration. Instead, he chose to arrange for himself a ceremonial fly-off to California, from St. Andrews Airbase. Very few members of his establishment were there at the farewell with Vice President Mike Pence among those missing. His daughter and son-in-law did however make the farewell team. There were many more present at Joe Biden's highly secured inauguration address – four former presidents and their spouses and two former vice presidents and their spouses, along with a large number of diplomats, senators and others prominent in American life in one way or the other.

Joe Biden, who at 78 is the oldest man to take charge of the US presidency, wasted no time in getting down to business. On his first day in office after the swearing in, before which he visited a graveyard marking the victims of the coronavirus, and laid a wreath at the shrine of the Unknown Soldier, Biden signed into effect 17 new laws which undo those sealed and signed during the Trump era. These laws end a bar on people from some Muslim countries entering to US, reconfirm the US back in the Climate Change Conference from Paris, adopt other environmental measures, and open up routes through which more Americans can be delivered the Covid-19 vaccine as quickly as possible. Certainly, we see change at the immediate moment. If it will last and how far America can be healed is something for the future.

On foreign policy, the Biden team has said it is keen to lower tensions with China, which have been mounting particularly during the last year of the Trump era, continue good ties with India, and work with Iran, as the country moves towards developing nuclear weapons, to a greater extent. The Obama regime agreement with Iran had been ended by Trump. Biden's new Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, the first black American to hold that title, has also said Pakistan will be a key ally for the US, and that Washington has no alternative but to work with that country for the sake of peace in the region.

Wednesday saw a lot of good cheer and words of relief and of America being 'back'. It is too early to say how the Biden presidency will evolve. But it could try and learn why there is so much eye-rolling when the rest of the world – particularly the developing world – hears such slogans. Perhaps, American can start by healing the faultlines within and then thinking about the havoc its policies have wreaked across the world. For now, though, the question for American domestic politics is how the fissures of race and class can be healed by a new administration that comes in at a time when the country stands so bitterly polarised. There is something disturbing also about the uncritical celebration of the return to a past that itself needed to be fixed.