By Rusiripala Tennakoon –
The victory of Joe Biden, the Democrat, in the election against the hard headed Republican Donald Trump, has brought the world to stand gazing with a sense of complacency with fingers crossed. U.S. politics continued to be dominated by two parties, Democrats and the Republicans since the American civil war period. While dominating the American political landscape with blurred separating lines in their economic policies, these two parties show varying ideas and great divergences in their ideals and philosophies on several matters. Republican philosophy leans more towards individual freedoms, rights and responsibilities and supports a pro-business platform, with foundations in economic libertarianism, and fiscal and social conservatism. In contrast, Democrats attach greater importance to equality and social/community responsibility. The Democratic party has consistently positioned itself to the left of the Republican Party in economic as well as social matters.
However, because of the underlying common Americanism, both candidates are ‘much of a muchness’– hard to choose between.
The victorious Democratic party was founded around 1828 by Andrew Jackson and is recognized as the world’s oldest active political party. During its history 14 Democrats have served as Presidents of the U.S. starting with Andrew Jackson as the 7th US President elect, in 1829. The last, before Joe Biden was Barrack Obama, the 44th US President from 2009 to 2017. Now Joe Biden is in the cock pit from 7/11/2020.
There have been 7 U.S. Presidents from the Democratic Party in the 20th Century, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Of all the Democrats elected as Presidents only Frank D. Roosevelt got elected for two terms before Bill Clinton (1993-2001) after whom the Republican George W. Bush, got elected for two terms (2001 to 2009). This shows how the pendulum is swinging in American Politics. During the period after the re-election of Barrack Obama for his second term in 2010, the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives and the State Legislatures and lost control of the American Senate in 2014. Now Democrats are back in power replacing the Republican Trump.
It is relevant to examine the policies of Democrats and the roles they have played in the international politics when they were in power. Historically, the party has represented farmers, laborers, labor unions and religious and ethnic minorities as it has opposed unregulated business and finance and favored progressive income taxes. In the 1930s, the party began advocating welfare spending programs targeted at the poor. The party had a conservative and pro-business wing, supported by the Civil Rights Act 1964 after President Lyndon B Johnson. The major influences for liberalism were labor unions and the African American wing, which has steadily grown since the 1960s. Protecting the environment and the environmental rights has been a major activity and concern of their political involvement since the 1970s,
The Democratic platform offered to the voters before the elections by Joe Biden pronounced his policy lines regarding the Foreign policy and International relations. The most significant foreign policy difference between Trump and Biden, as presented in his political platform was that “Trump has practiced an assertive unilateralism” while Biden has made clear he wants to return to an “international, cooperative, pro-alliance” model of diplomacy that was prominent in previous administrations.
In the same context Biden’s statement about defense and troop levels clarified the view point of the Democrats about their military policy. They announced that they call for reducing military spending, a sharp contrast to Trump, who has championed an increase in defense spending and has warned that Democrats will weaken the military! Joe Biden elaborated his stand further stating that, “We can maintain a strong defense and protect our safety and security for less”. Their policy stand is to (according to election platform ), call for annual audits of the Pentagon and an end to what the party sees as the department’s “waste and fraud.”
The concluding remark capitulated the position by stating,- “we also call for bringing, ‘forever wars to a responsible end’.”
American voter preferences
It is interesting to take a look at the voter preferences of the Americans expressed at this election. While foreign policy issues became hot topics of debate between the contestants it seldom became anywhere close to be called a significant issue for the US voters.
According to critics even the Pandemic, the Covid-19 issue, appeared to be of far less impact than expected.
The Research Centers involved in analysis of voter preferences have come up with the conclusion that economy was ranked the most important issue in the poll, with 79% of registered voters saying it was very important to their vote.
The other issues in the order of preference were health care and Supreme Court appointments.
Foreign policy issues ranked sixth on the list, with only 57% of registered voters saying it was very important to their vote.
It is in this context that we have to view the importance of the regime change to us.
Regional concerns (Asia) under Trump Presidency
It was a well-recognized fact that the Presidency of Trump was considered as a disruptive period in the Global politics. The Regional relationships were highly adversely impacted. In contrast Obama administration took an entirely different view about the U.S. engagements in the Asian region. He personally visited several countries in the Asian Region during his two terms and gave very high prominence to Trade promotion and facilitation agreements with the ASEAN countries. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) initiated during Obama leadership was considered as a strategic economic engagement of the region but Trump pulled out of these agreements unilaterally in 2017.
During the South China Sea dispute the involvement of U.S. was friendly, although articulated as important. Obama’s approach to the problem was cautious and careful and appeared to be more seriously concerned to avoid any complicating engagement with China. Instead, he diplomatically continued the ongoing dialogues on other less controversial issues such as climate changes. But, Trump did not hesitate to castigate this position by openly remarking insolently, as, “climate change is a myth for and by the Chinese”.
His era aggravated the U.S.-China tensions which created tremendous pressure for the countries in the region. This posed a big problem to the small countries who were seriously inclined to maintain healthy relations with both powers in a cooperative manner. Trump branded North Korea as a state with nuclear weapons. Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership program initiated by Obama regime, creating a vacuum and introduced his FOIPS (Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy). Republican administration converted the growing tensions between China and U.S. from a simple trade dispute speedily expanding to technology, energy, geo-politics and security.
Previously, countries in the region, accepted U.S. as an important trading partner and as a source of advanced technology in addition to regarding it as a strong security power against the spreading of terrorism in the region. The countries in the region especially small countries like ours are facing a challenge with the tensions mounting between U.S and China, in trying to maintain the principled position of a balanced relationship with both powers. Both China and US are important trading and investment partners to all of us in the Asian Region.
World is need of a new Global Order
No country wishes to compromise its territorial integrity due to intervention of big powers. World needs a global order where rules based on multilateral trading systems are respected and international laws and institutions are upheld. China and U.S. being the two super trading partners in the world should resolve their differences without any confrontation and muscle –flexing, or pressurizing other countries to choose sides.
There are serious challenges faced by the human beings common to all states, big and small., such as environmental threats and climatic changes, health issues, terrorism, disarmament etc. etc. Growing disputes between big powers will seriously undermine the cooperation required to address these complex global issues. Democrats can initiate a culture and hopefully re-establish an era of peaceful co-existence in the region to create a mutual interdependency between big powers, spurring the generation of increased trade and investment opportunities for the humanity to share. The significance of the U.S. Regime change falls within this prospect.