The US Presidential Election Result: What It Means For Europe
Michael Smollen, Member of the Editorial team of Libertas
The election of Joseph R. Biden as 46th President of the United States brings welcome positivity to a year characterised by bad news. President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris have had long careers in public service. Both have defended liberal values throughout their careers, and are effectively the polar opposite of the administration they will succeed on 20th January 2021. The election of Vice President-Elect Harris represents a significant moment in US, and indeed global politics. Born to parents from India and Jamaica, she is the first woman, and second person of colour, elected to deputise for the most powerful office in the world.
The defeat of President Donald Trump by a liberal leader, who values multilateralism and deplores authoritarianism spells gloom for a number of European national governments. The close relationship, and indeed endorsement, enjoyed by President Andrzej Duda of Poland, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary, Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom with President Trump’s Administration will undoubtedly be markedly different under President-Elect Biden.
President-Elect Biden’s commitment to rejoin the Paris Agreement, cancel the US withdrawal from the World Health Organisation and effectively reset the relationship between the US and its traditional allies is undoubtedly good news for the world. American leadership on universal problems (climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic) and geo-political challenges has been severely lacking under the Trump Administration. So what can we expect from the Biden Administration on these issues?
On climate change, Biden has pledged to set in-train his goal to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050, a remarkable goal from the world’s largest per-capita CO2 emitter. He has also committed to leading an effort to get every major country to improve their domestic climate targets and integrate climate change into US foreign policy and national security strategies. The first manifestation of this has been seen in the appointment of former Secretary of State John Kerry as US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. The climate aims of the incoming US administration are very much in-sync with current European Union policy.
The Obama Administration established the Global Health Security and Biodefense Unit within the National Security Council (NSC) in 2015, an agency tasked with monitoring outbreaks of contagious diseases throughout the globe, and putting in place supports and measures to contain these. Under the Trump Administration, the unit was removed from the NSC and faltered over a number of years. You don’t need insurance until you need it. So far, the COVID-19 pandemic has cost over 280,000 lives in the US, and over 1,500,000 throughout the world. The disproportionate misery bestowed upon the American people, through deaths and economic hardship, contributed significantly to the demise of the Trump Presidency. The vision set out by the Biden administration to tackle this pandemic by following scientific advice is in stark contrast to the Trump plan to date, which is grounded in deflecting and denying facts in favour of empty platitudes based around ‘freedom’.
The aggression of Russia in Europe and beyond has manifested through cyber-attacks, long-range bomber aircraft patrols through EU Member State controlled airspace, election interference and support for insurgents in Ukraine. The admiration and respect President Trump has consistently demonstrated for authoritarian leaders, including Vladimir Putin, has emboldened the very worst instincts of autocratic, illiberal governments. President-Elect Biden must lead alliances in Europe and Asia to protect, and expand, the common-values of liberty, human rights and pluralism we hold dear.
A central tenet of the Conservative Party vision (or delusion) of a ‘successful Brexit’ centres on a Free Trade Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom. Indeed, in May 2018, the Leader of the House of Commons, The Rt Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, penned an opinion piece in The Times of London titled ‘President Trump Will Be Our Greatest Ally After Brexit’, with the by-line proclaiming “Freed from ties to the EU, Britain can build a truly special relationship with this US president”. It would appear, thankfully, the world is now free from ties to the charlatan on whom this fantasy was based. The British Government’s shameful tactics through negotiations have ranged from threatening the livelihoods of fishing communities, to threatening peace on the Island of Ireland. President-Elect Biden is a proud Irish American. Paraphrasing James Joyce, Biden once wrote that when he dies, “Northeast Pennsylvania will be written on my heart. But Ireland will be written on my soul.”. President-Elect Biden, and his Secretary of State Nominee Tony Blinken, have made clear to the British Government that the United States will consider a failure to avoid a hard border a violation of the Good Friday Agreement, of which it is a guarantor. Both have also made clear that their transatlantic priorities centre on partnership with the European Union, rather than the United Kingdom.
Europe, and the World, are on the cusp of a new, and brighter era. As we set out towards a ‘new-normal’ in a post COVID, post Brexit world and face the challenges of Climate Change, we now have an ally providing leadership for a better tomorrow.
Wednesday, 20th January 2021. That will be a good day.
About the Author:
Michael Smollen is a member of Ógra Fianna Fáil. He works as a corporate finance professional in Dublin, he holds a BA (Hons) Accounting & Finance from Dublin City University and is based in Cavan, Ireland.