US President Election 2020

Four more years of Trump or new era of Biden, so what?

Back to basics.

The actual election process in the US regarding the Presidential election, occurs based on the federal law, not media reporting.

These items are the actual facts of how Presidential elections are decided in the US under normal circumstances. The media can simply project who they think will win based on vote totals at a given time. Unless the loser formally concedes prior to December 14th, the election remains in play. Technically, Joe Biden is NOT the President-elect, no matter how much certain people might want him to be. He would not be formally declared the President Elect until December 14th 2020 and that is under normal circumstances. This election was anything but normal.

The Kafka Election Model, conspiracy theories again!

The key actor in the American conspiracy theories is the Deep State, which decides what happens next. So, the Deep State is reasoning that with Biden and Harris, the path gets smoother towards the Great Reset.  US intelligence agencies are very aware of well-documented instances of election fraud. Among them the most famous is NSA software that infiltrates any network, as previously detailed by Edward Snowden, and capable of altering vote counts. The Hammer supercomputer and its Scorecard app can hack computers at the transfer points of state election computer systems and outside third-party election data vaults (Dominion). “Hammer and Scorecard” – system is so intelligent that it can actually change the false number of votes in real time based on reporting of data on the internet. Many states and counties use voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems. Now the claims of Trump supporters say that the glitch software “Dominion” has switched 6,000 votes from Trump to Biden in Michigan and that is only a tip of iceberg. A widespread election software system Dominion is used in 30 states including all the swing states.

Another curious feature in the election process.

Biden’s nominal victory in the vote tallies should be a proof that Russia did not interfere in the American presidential ballot in 2020. Yet the silence in US msm (main stream media) over this conclusion is deafening. Four years of furious allegations of “Russian meddling” have disappeared overnight. Poof, Gone! On the contrary, the Department of Homeland Security pronounced the election to be the “most secure in American history” and American msm has rushed to vow the same.

They seem to forget that just in the months and weeks leading up to the November election, there was a frenetic discourse in US media among politicians, national security chiefs, pundits and anonymous intelligence sources that Russia was allegedly stepping up “interference efforts” to get Trump re-elected. Now, nothing. Miracles have returned to America.

The political hoo-ha around the American President election 2020 has been such that the election may or may not have been rigged but if this had happened in any other nation, America would brand it illegitimate and had certainly raised a big pandemonium. No matter what the final result will be, there is and will be substantial doubts about its legitimacy by one side (Republicans) or the other (Democrats), perhaps both and no deranged conspiracy thinking is required for that.

One crucial question in this context can be presented: Why such conspiracy theories and other curious events are buzzing around American elections but not in Europe or in Australia or somewhere else in Western world, just in America. It may be wise to recall an old saying “There is no smoke without a fire”.

The US Presidential Election: The view from outside

A contradiction in the American presidential election is that despite for all the media hype around the world, one would not expect any immense consequences.

The US will continue to conduct itself as a “unipolar hegemon” interfering in other nations’ affairs, utilizing its privileged dollar fiat currency and unilaterally using power to enforce its national objective when it deems necessary. Every American president over the past century has engaged in all of these practices. Many foreign political experts are discussing on the fading American liberal democracy resembling more and more an oligarchic plutocracy.

However, it hardly matters who finally wins the White House and is inaugurated as the 46th president on January 20. Trump’s past four years have amply demonstrated that any hopes for an improvement in great power relations have been faded in the distance. There are reasons to be wary of US foreign policy becoming marginally even more aggressive, in particular when considering the first preliminary nominees of Biden, which represent the hawkish national security blob. The US ship of state has been on a sped-up course for collision and conflict for many years, if not decades. Changing a captain figurehead in the bridge is not going to change the ominous course.

Trump was a symptom of American decline that Biden is unlikely to reverse

Not much is likely to happen for probably the next four years in terms of major legislation but some changes might happen in terms of foreign policy. 

The Obama administration turned eastward and in 2012 launched its “Pivot to East Asia” strategy in order to contain a quickly rising China. The US sought to weaken and divide China in order to contain its military and political leverage in East Asia. They hoped to accomplish this by ramping up military, economic and political ties with countries adjacent to China. One example of this plan to isolate China was the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which sought to draw in China’s neighbours closer to the US and blunt China’s economic leverage.

Just days after taking office in 2017, newly elected US President Donald Trump withdrew from the TPP, which was undoubtedly an unwise strategy, if containing China was a priority of his administration. To be sure, Trump has been aggressive against China, but this aggression has been confused, desperate and, when coupled with his administration’s attacks on multilateral institutions, only weakened Washington’s standing globally. 

Trump tried to “Make America Great Again” with the assumption that America has the same full-spectrum dominance capabilities of Bush I or Bush II but found out that this was not the case. Obviously, his administration never understood America’s dwindling capabilities thus overestimating American dominance. Trump’s administration bit off far more than it could chew by escalating with Venezuela, Cuba, China, Iran and so many more countries all at once and it was simply never going to work. 

Biden’s administration will probably be filled with Obama alumni and people who actually understand geopolitics. But will this make him more capable to manage the rest of the world? Hardly. The limiting of America’s political and military capabilities is not a relic of the outgoing Trump administration but a historical inevitability and Joe Biden cannot salvage this. One must understand that the Americans are always applying maximum pressure. If they are not invading or interfering somewhere, it is simply because they cannot – whether that be for logistical or political reasons.

Simply, the US has no intellectual or other capacity to compete with an advanced, over-billion-people nation like China that is experiencing the highest economic growth in the history of humanity and dominating in large range of innovations. What will be most important to watch with Biden is how he manages China – whether he pushes for a mutually destructive decoupling strategy like Trump or seeks win-win engagement that could help the entire world economy recover after the pandemic.

The Russian administration wants to deal with Trump and this is largely connected with the talks about the START-3 extension. The treaty will eventually expire in early February 2021. Biden has made a number of statements to put an end to the Putin regime. The relationship between Putin and Biden has not worked well so far. Already some ten years ago, Biden came to Moscow and tried to persuade Putin not to run for president and even offered Putin the post of the chairman of the International Olympic Committee. Biden does not hide his dislike of the Russian president. Trump wants to build a better relationship with Russia, he has a fixed idea – to get along with Russia. If Biden wins, Russia might be prepared to get on horseback and fight again.

Trump may have accelerated Washington’s downward trajectory by embarrassing the US on the world stage and self-imploding the US economy over a mismanaged Covid-19 response. However, a country that could actually produce a Trump presidency and then follow that up with a mentally aging 77-year-old (soon to be 78!) is unfit to be the world’s foremost power. It is also merely a fact of history that empires do not last forever. 

Can Biden restore America’s global reputation?

If the US Senate remains Republican and if Biden takes the White House, his ability to repair the damages done by Trump administration will be severely restricted.  Joe Biden will likely be hamstrung for the next four years and the US faces a four-year paralysis. The Republican Party’s maintaining its grip on the Senate seems almost inevitable. It has also gained seats in the House of Representatives. So, the US politics is likely to be pushed into more uncertainty and policy paralysis over the next four years.

It will not be easy for Biden to fulfill the pledges he made during the election campaign. Biden’s efforts to reform domestic policy are unlikely to be legislated successfully. Due to Biden’s likely failure to get the Senate’s approval for most of his domestic policies, he will probably be a lame duck on this front. But more important, Biden will face even more challenges on the foreign-policy front.

While it is true that American supremacy and exceptionalism would have come to an end eventually, Trump has managed to accelerated that process. Biden may be able to slow this decline but it seems quite certain that he will not be able to restore America’s dominance fully any more. In these four years of his administration, Trump has been determined to discredit international organizations created under America’s own leadership over the last 70 years. He has detached the US from the concept of rule-based international order and a rule-based trading system. His administration announced plans to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly called the Iran deal, the Global Compact for Migration and the INF and Open Skies arms-control treaties with Russia.

Trump has refused to abide by many of the accords made under US leadership to regulate global governance. He threatened to ban the International Criminal Court. Similarly, the US quit the United Nations Human Rights Council and UNESCO. He stopped funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Trump also weakened the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and crippled the World Trade Organization (WTO). The US decision to impose a 25% tariff on steel imported from its Canadian, Mexican and European allies contradicts a rule-based trading system.

The big question is of America’s credibility in the world. The United States’ image in the international community now is that of an undependable country. From its powerful allies to economically poor and militarily weak countries, many no longer believe they can rely on the US.  Unilateral decisions of the US not to adhere to international law have created conditions under which many other countries also feel free to disobey these rules when they find them unfavorable. 

The next most significant decline of America’s reputation is in its commitment to democracy and human rights. This decline was exposed by the US response to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. More important, Trump withdrew the US membership in the World Health Organization at the crucial time of need for leadership in the global war on Covid-19. The US stopped fulfilling its financial obligation to the WHO amid the pandemic. For the last four years, the US has been undermining its own credibility in the eyes of its allies and trade partners worldwide. The challenge for Biden or the White House in general, is to restore the Pax Americana and regain global trust.

Biden’s dilemma

The election is over and barring major fraud or error, Joe Biden will be the next president of the US. He begins as a weak candidate and the country is divided virtually down the middle, since almost half of the country voted against him. Animosity toward him will be similar to that faced by Donald Trump for the past four years. Congress is deeply divided, the Democrats’ majority downed to just 14 seats and the Senate may come in at fifty-fifty. Once the euphoria of victory passes, Biden will have little room for maneuver.

Biden must create a strong basis for his presidency quickly. There is no towering foreign policy issue at hand but there are two towering domestic issues: the Covid-19 crisis and the economy. The more aggressive measures are used to fight the virus, the greater the stress on the economy, and vice versa.

Trump regarded the virus as secondary to the economy. The reasonable approach is to take both equally seriously and find solutions for both – reasonable but difficult, when solutions for one impose costs on the other side. Biden may have many virtues but addressing Churchillian-type “blood, sweat and tears”- speech, does not seem to be one of them.

Biden’s promise to unite the country is unlikely enough, for he is trapped in his predecessor’s dilemma. Under present circumstances, Biden has limited economic options and he has to deal with a disease without a real expertise but for which he is expected to implement solutions. Some solutions will come from doctors who are insensitive to the economic consequences of their decisions but others will come from the Fed and business, who expect the medical system to solve the problem. Like Trump, he will have a menu of imperfect choices and he will pay the political price for whatever he chooses.

Foreign policy legacy

Usually the foreign policy legacy tends to follow from one president to another. Obama’s presidency coincided with the jihadist wars. For Obama there were three principles: withdrawing maximum forces from the Middle East, restructuring the US-China relationship and preventing Russia from dominating Ukraine and other near-countries. Trump’s foreign policy was to continue to reduce the presence of US forces in the Middle East while overseeing a new geopolitical system that binds Israel to the Arab world, heavily increasing pressure on China to change its economic policies and modestly increasing US presence in Poland and Romania to block Russia.

Biden may open with some easy moves such as rejoining the Paris Agreement. This requires that a country create plans for meeting the treaty’s goals, create plans for implementation and implement them. For Biden, creating a plan he can get through Congress is tough and implementing it is even tougher. However, joining is easy and will entail some good image to Biden.

He will also revive transatlantic relations by sounding reasonable at the endless NATO meetings that usually achieve nothing. Aside from Poland and Romania and the classic issue of defense spending, Washington has few real issues to be expected with Europe.

From the American foreign policy perspective, what will matter to Biden, stay the same what mattered to Obama and Trump:

  • China and its economic relationship with the US
  • military-strategic situation in the Indo-Pacific area
  • the changing tectonics in the MENA, while supporting the Israeli-Arab rapprochement
  • the continued attempts to limit and contain Russian efforts by sanctions and troop deployments in Eastern Europe

According to numerous American policy analysts, these are issues that represent continuity, are important and will not detract from the core domestic challenges Biden will grapple with. There are other foreign issues but shifting them requires dealing with allies who are deeply invested in them. For example, shifting policy on Iran is possible but it would create huge tensions with Israel and the Sunni Arab world. Similarly, a shift in Korea policy would create problems with Japan and South Korea.

So, the goal of the incoming Biden administration will be to focus on the issue that “destroyed” Trump: Covid-19 and the economy. To do that, it is necessary to limit or avoid foreign policy initiatives that might weaken Biden’s position in the Congress, the country and internationally.

This model, of course, depends on the actions of others. Jimmy Carter did not expect an uprising in Iran and George H.W. Bush was not clear on the fall of the Soviet Union. His son did not expect his administration to be all about al-Qaida. The rest of the world can redefine what is important and what is not. Given the US focus on domestic policy, the opportunity for other countries to take advantage of this preoccupation is potentially significant. Thus, the reality is that for the moment, the initiative shifts out of the United States.

Trump’s next move: plotting against Biden

Trump has possibly realized that he has lost the election even if he does not want to acknowledge it publicly… OR he may have a staggering political detonation coming.

However, he has to have a plan B, thinking about two things: how to make life miserable for his successor Joe Biden and how to manage his own post-presidential career. It seems pretty clear that Trump will declare that he is going to run again in 2024, whether he really intends to or not, and that he will seek to function as a monarch in exile at Mar-a-Lago.

If anything, the Republican party, which made inroads into minority voters, could be well-positioned for upcoming elections. The Democrats are not. With Biden as president, he will inherit the problems that Trump has left behind, a pandemic, a massive budget deficit and a faltering economy. The Senate Republicans, led by majority leader Mitch McConnell, will be in no mood to compromise. Nor will a conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

The Biden presidency may be more marked by what does not happen than by what does. There will be no Green New Deal, no massive infrastructure plan, no tax hikes, no packing of the Supreme Court and so on. Right now, Trump will surely focus on refusing cooperation, as far as possible, with the Biden transition team. He can try and drag out the election result with a barrage of lawsuits. But once he has accepted his defeat, Trump will turn to his goal, plotting his revenge against Biden.

Strongmen have not congratulated Biden yet. Their silence speaks volumes.

Russia’s Putin, China’s Xi, Turkey’s Erdogan, Brazil’s Bolsonaro and Mexico’s Obrador have all refrained so far to congratulate Biden. This is an ominous situation, indicating numerous interesting and important processes going in the triangle game of great powers, also taking into account those major states, which have already congratulated and … in which ways.

China finally congratulated Joe Biden on his projected win in the US presidential election, breaking a frosty period of silence, on November 13, 2020.”We respect the choice of the American people. We extend congratulations to Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris,” a foreign ministry spokesman said on Friday. The China-US relationship is crucial to both sides and the wider world. Tensions have soared in recent times over trade, espionage and the pandemic.

The message shows China’s leaders and specifically Xi Jinping have accepted the result and expect Joe Biden to be inaugurated as president in January despite legal challenges from the Trump campaign. Until this point, the Chinese government had been holding out, saying only that it had “noticed that Mr. Biden had been declared winner”. After offering the congratulations, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin added: “We understand the results of the US election will be determined according to US laws and procedures.” This additional phrase was very important indicating China is very aware of legal process situation, initiated by Trump team.

Russia is yet to offer well wishes. Four years ago, the Russian leader Vladimir Putin was among the first to congratulate Donald Trump on his election victory but there has been no tweet, telegram or phone call to Mr. Biden this time. “We believe the correct thing to do would be to wait for the official election result,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

What about the market reactions?

Last weeks have been traumatic enough for markets around the globe – particularly those of the emerging variety. Concerns about Covid-19 second waves, debt sustainability, geopolitical tensions and various bubbles in shares and assets have made for uniquely volatile trading. But none of these risks comes close to the ways in which Trump may stress test the global economy.

It seems and feels as particular relevant to close this blog by stating:

“Don’t worry, nothing is OK”. Something apocalyptic is taking place in America; the perfect storm is lurking around the corner.