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Biden Won: What’s next?

Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

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The moment many awaited with bated breath finally arrived, Vice President Joe Biden has been declared as the new elect 46th President of United States of America. Since November 3, the close margin of votes for the Democratic Party candidate and President Donald Trump in key swing states created an anxious atmosphere across the nation. With the final vote count emerging from Pennsylvania and confirming the state turning blue, it thwarted the Republican Party’s dream of four more years in the White House.

As Trump trailed behind in many states, he voiced his concerns and promised taking the issue to the Supreme Court. According to President Trump, there has been voter fraud and media conspiracy in many states that led to losing critical electoral votes. Consequently, his legal team has filed for lawsuits in states like Michigan, Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona. But this is an uphill battle for his campaign staff. For starters, unlike the electoral crisis of 2000 when the recount issue was raised solely in the state of Florida, this election year’s recount matter involves multiple states. Trump’s legal team would not only have to fight these cases in various states individually, but also present concrete proof of voter fraud which the President claims. Even as some courts have accepted these strings of litigation from the Trump campaign, most legal experts are viewing these cases with skepticism. In Michigan and Georgia, Trump’s case was given a short hearing due to lack of evidence, even though the latter is heading for vote recount. The Trump campaign staff would not only have to envisage a multi-state legal battle plan, but also reserve funds from their donors to proceed. For President Trump to successfully win these various litigations, the election result has to be extremely close. But Joe Biden has electorally surpassed the President in almost all the critical swing states, therefore weakening his case and debatable chances for a second term. 

For Biden, the immediate task at hand is twofold: carefully selecting a qualified, diverse cabinet and preparing policy agendas that will be prioritized the moment he is sworn in as the President. The Biden administration is expected to be an eclectic mix of moderates, progressives and possibly even Republicans to present a united front. Building the cabinet would be Biden’s first challenge. The left side of the Democratic Party would expect one of the most progressive cabinet in the history of United States, whereas the corporate backers who invested money in the campaign would have a completely different economic agenda. Apart from people who have worked with Biden for years, one can expect to see new faces, especially of those people who have worked hard for this win in their respective states. According to reports, the President elect would rigorously assess the potential candidates in the coming months, sliming the possibility of such announcements any time soon.

In terms of policy, Covid 19 and social healthcare measures would be Biden administration’s immediate concern. Biden has promised to launch a Covid 19 task force comprising of scientists and medical experts to get grips with the pandemic escalating coast to coast. A wave of investments in protective gear & equipments, loans to various types of businesses, stern federal public health guidelines and consistent dialogue with state governments can be expected from the Biden government in the first few days of his presidency. The administration would also take steps to assist the medical, nursing and essential workers at the frontlines on various levels. Apart from Covid 19, the administration’s urgent attention would be on rebuilding the economy. Moving ahead his campaign’s economic vision of “Made in all of America”, the elect President would focus on revitalizing the domestic manufacturing while bringing public and private entities together. Fulfilling his campaign promise of increasing minimum wage to 15 dollars, creating 5 million new jobs, investing billions of dollars in renewing American manufacturing hubs, strengthening R&D for science & technology, supporting overtime pay for workers and so on would be addressed within the first few months.

Apart from Covid 19 and economy, focusing on systematic racial inequality in the society and climate change would be in President elect’s top concern list. For racial inequality the campaign promise of providing loans of hundred billion dollars at low interest rate to people of color, providing capital for startups by people of color from economically disadvantaged parts of the country and investing in black and minority colleges/universities would be pushed ahead. Similarly, the long term goal of producing zero carbon emissions by 2050 would be laid into action step by step by the administration. Apart from these plans, the Biden campaign has also expressed their plans for taxes, student loans, housing and healthcare infrastructure.

All these campaign promises are not only ambitious in nature but would also require highest form of political skill for pitching them in the Congress. Even though the President elect would try to push these ahead through multitude of Executive Orders, many promises involving finances would require Senate’s support. Due to Republican Party leading the Senate race, Sen. Mitch McConnell would likely to continue being the Senate Majority leader. It is highly plausible that the White House and the Congress would be at loggerheads due to this development, but there is still hope for the Democrats. Biden’s years of experience at Capitol Hill would be of great leverage for sealing deals with the Senate. During the Obama years, he played a critical role in bridging the gap between conservatives and liberals. Despite differing politically, Biden and McConnell have not only known each other for years but have also formed a respectable personal relationship. This relationship can prove to be a real asset for President Biden and his administration’s plans in heralding the country in a new post-Covid 19 era.

In terms of foreign policy, the Biden administration would attempt at “normalizing” American relations abroad. Firstly, the President will focus towards mending broken bridges in the multilateral settings like admitting America back in WHO, the Paris Agreement, UNHCR etc. He would be utilizing traditional diplomatic channels and his years of foreign policy experience/contacts in sending across a reaffirming message to these organizations. Biden administration’s second task at hand would be reassuring American allies especially in Europe and Asia. As the faith in American leadership has dwindled during the Trump years, Biden administration would upscale America’s charm offensive. Thirdly, on all matters associated to China, the Biden administration would most probably continue Trump’s policies, but with heightened diplomatic maneuvering. Trump’s lasting legacy is his China policy and hence, tensed Sino-America relationship would continue to prevail for the two countries in the coming years. Fourthly, Biden would be critical in shaping the future of America’s Indo-Pacific policy, especially the Quad arrangement. The decisions during his term would solidify Quad’s characteristics as a grouping and eventually America’s role in the Indo Pacific as China expands its influence in the region. And lastly, Biden’s biggest foreign policy challenge would be Iran Nuclear deal. Finding ways to reconnect with the Iranian policymakers, winning their faith, finding means to strike a deal with Tehran and European allies while keeping the concerns raised by JCPOA critics at home would be a job of herculean propotion.

It is important to note that even though President Trump has lost the election, he has electorally surpassed expectations. Irrespective of a global pandemic that claimed thousands of American lives, social unrest due to deepening racial tensions, eroding faith in law & order, wildfires at an unprecedented scale, frequent shootouts and escalation in hate crimes, President Trump was able to garner vast support. This year his voting base not only included traditional white voters, but also saw an increase of voters from Hispanic communities, especially in the state of Texas and Florida. Traditionally, the Hispanic communities from the 1990s began shifting towards the Democratic Party, but this election the President was able to make headway in winning their crucial votes. Ultimately, the election map signals that the “Trump Ideology” would continue to attract millions of people in America even though the president has lost his second bid. In the books of political history, he will always be remembered as a political maverick who revolutionized the Republican Party, for better or worse. Trump’s post presidency years could see him legally defending against slew of lawsuits and attempting to be politically relevant. With time, the conservative force in the American politics would search for a leader who espouses similar ideas and gives voice to the other half of the population. But until then, Joe Biden will be the President of a divided country that is on the quest of soul search.

Aakriti Sethi is a doctoral candidate at US Studies Program (USSP), Center for Canadian, US & Latin American Studies (CCUS&LAS), School of International Studies (SIS), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. She has an Mphil degree in US Studies from the same and a postgraduate degree in Geopolitics and International Relations from Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Karnataka. Previously, she worked at the US division of Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (MP-IDSA), New Delhi. Her area of interest includes US foreign policy, American domestic politics, Northeast Asia (primarily Japan, China and North Korea), Indo Pacific and India's foreign policy. Her work has been featured in various websites, journals and newsletters.

Americas

Global Warming And COP26: Issues And Politics

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The president’s massive social services and infrastructure package is under consideration by Congress.  The problem is Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia.

Not only is West Virginia a coal-producing state but Mr. Manchin owns two coal companies.  Although in a blind trust operated by his son, it is clear that coal companies make money when they sell coal.

But coal is a serious polluter, possibly the worst among fossil fuels.  Any serious attempt to reduce the impact of climate change will replace coal with at least natural gas — available in abundance and emitting almost 50 percent less CO2 according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Republicans — many of whom deny global warming following Trump’s lead — adamantly oppose the plan en bloc, so Senator Manchin’s vote is crucial.  For the moment then, the fate of the planet lies in the hands of one man because, quite simply, if the US backs off, China will be relieved of pressure — also Russia which has an abundance of fossil fuels.

Hence the importance of the COP26 climate summit scheduled for October 31 – November 2 in Glasgow.  Originally planned for 2020, the meeting was postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic.  The town is preparing for an influx of 25,000 people as lobbyists, conference attendees and demonstrators arrive. 

It is an interesting meeting, liked by some to a teacher requiring a class to prepare and bring term papers.  The 200 countries represented will be bringing their plans to meet the goals of the Paris accords.  These require the signatories to commit to enhance ambitions every five years — thus 2020 postponed to 2021 — under the so-called ‘ratchet mechanism’.  The Paris Accords aimed to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius and to aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

As often, people leak documents to help their agenda.  This time a huge leak shows how important fossil fuel using and producing countries are attempting to modify a crucial scientific report.  Oil producer Saudi Arabia, coal producer Australia and heavy user Japan are among those questioning a rapid change from fossil fuels.  Saudi Arabia for one also lobbied previously in 2015 with some success.

This time the lobbying effort consists of more than 32,000 submissions (by governments, corporations and other interested parties) to the team of scientists preparing scientific reports designed to coalesce the best science on tackling global warming.  One can imagine the headache for the scientists, who for the most part have a regular job, often as professors.  Produced as “assessment reports” by IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) these represent a consensus of the views of different governments, and are used by them to decide what action will be needed. 

The many bodies involved, the complicated murky politics and the enormous pressure from different parties all point to the crucial fact that billions of dollars are involved now in today’s dollars versus promises of a better and distant future.  We can only hope we have  decision makers with foresight, and leaders without Trumpian climate change ignorance and excess.

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America’s Two-Tiered Justice System

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The Constitution states only one command twice. The Fifth Amendment says to the federal government that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, uses the same eleven words, called the Due Process Clause, to describe a legal obligation of all states. These words have as their central promise an assurance that all levels of government must operate within the law and provide fair procedures to all its citizens.

In this politically divisive climate, the central promise has been broken with little to no assurance that one can trust the American democratic system where some courts have disavowed their responsibility to uphold the Constitution’s meaning of the laws passed by Congress. For instance, the Bill of Rights was passed because of concepts such as freedom of religion, speech, equal treatment, and due process of law were all deemed so fundamental to protect every legal resident in the nation; yet we are now witnessing politically charged judicial appointments eradicating these principles under which all persons and entities are accountable to equally enforce and independently adjudicate, as well as being consistent with international human rights.

On the heels of the Chinese coronavirus, there is an escalating epidemic of unequal justice and character assault where much of the news media is politically aligned with the rulers in turning a blind eye or complicit in the coverup; and in some cases, ravenously endorses the demise of what has essentially now become political dissidents falsely accused, intimidated, and jailed. While many Americans are attempting to scrape by in difficult times, they remain astute to the moral failure of the elites in power as well as the tacit elected opposition’s assiduous silence in whitewashing the legal duplicity. Historical trends over centuries of betraying the peasants eventually succumbs to a reckoning where the privileged corrupt politician and their corporate fascists will be exposed and held accountable in some fashion.  

Americans are confounded by the coronavirus decrees requiring masks to be worn for thee and not for me double standards. The politicians hammer away at enforcing mask mandates on the common folk, yet they do not adhere to their own edicts while attending fine dining with their elite backers. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Californian Governor Gavin Newsome, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot all violated their own mask mandates in public venues while the masked servants waited on them.

President Biden was caught on video walking maskless through a swanky Washington restaurant in violation of the District’s laws on facial coverings, yet regular citizens are subject to civil penalties which result in fines of $1000.00 or revocation of licenses during the COVID-19 emergency. In defending the emperor, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said we should ‘not overly focus on moments in time that don’t reflect overarching policy.’ These double standard by the progressives are a far cry from Americans being punished and ostracized all over the country for not wearing a mask.

Identity politics has resulted in two systems of justice – one where BLM rioting and looting is described by the media as peaceful demonstrations and where assaulting police has no criminal consequences; yet the January 6th actions at the Capital has resulted in the largest round up of protesters ever seen in America. It is estimated that the Federal Government has upwards to 70 rioters/trespassers in solitary confinement and they are only let out in a larger area for one hour at 2 am due to COVID. Some of those being held in detention have been charged with trespassing on restricted grounds, others with assault and obstruction, and some haven’t been charged with anything. There are no bail hearings for these political activists yet BLM and Antifa rioters typically spend one night in the brig and let out the next day to rejoin the frontlines of carnage.  

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vocally pushed for the January 6th ‘insurrectionists’ to be added to the TSA no-fly list. Civil liberties are being trampled by exploiting insurrection fears with people in attendance no longer permitted to take a flight in their own country and they have not been convicted of a crime. This action by the government had previously only happened to suspect foreign terrorists, and now it is happening to Americans under suspicion. We see no similar actions taken against the militant Antifa anarchists who attacked and torched federal buildings in Portland.

Washington DC has essentially been abusing these inmates in captivity. There have been complaints on the nourishment of their fellow Americans where they are served white bread and a packet of tartar sauce. This is ultimately a violation of the 8th Amendment that prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, nor cruel and unusual punishments, and from inflicting unduly harsh penalties. Some judges are expressing concern at the length of these pretrial incarcerations, however they’ve largely deferred to the Justice Department. Meanwhile anarchists who burn down buildings and shoot projectiles at police officers and federal buildings have charges dismissed. Justice is not equal.   

One female trespasser was shot dead by police during the Capital unrest and there was no outcry or charges against the officer. She was white and a Trump supporter. Federal prosecutors are not seeking criminal charges against the police lieutenant whose single shot killed Ashli Babbit, the 14-year veteran who served four tours with the US Airforce. If the unarmed Babbit committed any crime, it would have been for trespassing, a misdemeanor that should have seen her arrested and not slain. The lieutenant’s life was not at risk nor was he saving the lives of others as he stood with numerous police officers in riot gear and strapped with submachine guns. If a member of BLM was shot dead by police during an unlawful riot, there would have been an immediate racial outcry from political elites and from across the news media for justice followed by looting local retailers and ransacking a police precinct. The action by BLM is considered righteous violence whereas the slain Babbit had it coming to her.  

On a very disturbing and new level of injustice is the threatening actions being taken against parents of schoolchildren by the Department of Justice. Most Americans are familiar with the Patriot Act following 9-11 where the National Security Division conducts counterterrorism operations against foreign adversaries planning suicide bombings and stealing nuclear secrets. Now the Biden Administration, under Attorney General Merrick Garland, has turned the NSD’s crosshairs against everyday Americans conducting their civil duties and free speech as school board meetings.

Garland’s actions followed the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) claim that American public schools and its education leaders are under immediate threats and intimidation as parents grow frustrated over the divisive neo-Marxist Critical Race Theory being injected into their children’s curricula. This is clearly an injustice to weaponize the DOJ and FBI investigators to intimidate and arrest parents under the same counterespionage to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Parents may be angry, but they are certainly not domestic terrorists in taking on the powerfully partisan school unions who somehow believe they are justified to influence civilization by indoctrinating their children.        

Garland’s poster boy for his hideous partisan support of the NSBA is a Virginia father who was arrested at a school board meeting when he attempted to raise the alarm over his young daughter being raped in the school washroom. The father became the symbol of angry parents confronting school officials when he was taken down by several police officers and apprehended for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He became vocally upset when school officials denied the attack on his daughter, but he was not physically confrontational.

The father said it is scary that our government will weaponize themselves against parents and they’re using my video across the nation to spread fear; while the school officials did not seem to want to listen to him regarding his daughter being assaulted by a boy wearing a skirt who took advantage of transgender rules to access the girl’s washroom. The boy has now been charged with two counts of forcible sodomy, one count of anal sodomy, and one count of forcible fellatio related to the incident at that school. At a later date, the same boy was charged for a similar attack at neighboring school where he allegedly forced a victim into an empty classroom where he held her against her will and inappropriately touched her.  Regardless of the raped daughter, Garland and the NSBA still have their video of the father being wrestled down to support the use of the FBI against parents and send a chilling effect on harmless dissent.  

The Russian collusion narrative against then President Donald Trump may seem dated, however it can never be swept aside or forgotten in what may well have been the biggest political scandal and injustice to a man in American history. The country endured four years investigating Russian collusion into the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 presidential win with senate and congressional impeachment hearings over a Clinton-paid-for fake dossier, the biased Obama hatchet men overseeing the FBI and CIA shirking the law, a frenzied media that never let up on Trump’s guilt, and a special counsel comprised of Clinton partisans that turned over every leaf that eventually found the nearly crucified Trump to be innocent of the false charges. The former president had to withstand an incessant blitzkrieg of injustice through his entire presidency while leading the most powerful country in the world.   

On the hand, there is compelling evidence that President Joe Biden spent years while in government enriching himself through family ties, specifically his son Hunter, to the tune of millions of dollars in foreign money from China, Russia, and Ukraine. The foreign players simply used the unqualified son to leverage access to Biden while satisfying Hunter’s greed and questionable lifestyle. Biden has little to no ability to stand up to China or Russia knowing they are holding damaging transactions over his head. There have been no investigations into Biden’s quid-pro-quo against Ukraine or the transfer of tens of millions of dollars to Biden family members, no impeachments, and the news media buried these stories; including damaging information found on Hunter’s laptop during the 2020 presidential election. Had Trump and his sons engaged in these activities, there would have been a very different level of justice.   

What of this injustice that is making its mark on history? If we take a moment to think through the confusion of the moment and see the morale issue involved, then one may refuse to have this sense of justice distorted to grip power rather than for the good of the country. Those who have sown this unjust wind may eventually reap a whirlwind that provokes reform by convulsion of the people instead of a natural order of business. We must all remember that democracy lies with the people of this land and whether the nation will be stirred to stand for justice and freedom in this hour of distress and go on to finish in a way worthy of its beginning.  

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Americas

Biden’s Department of Justice: parents as domestic terrorists

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In recent developments in the United States, US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, and the FBI have put under the FBI radar parents as potential domestic terrorists. You heard it right. This is now a new formal legal policy contained in memos of the Department of Justice trying to reign in parents discussions on Biden’s new school curricula. They are not going after potential outbursts but outright terrorism. 

This is an attack on freedom of speech in the sense that parents have the right to discuss and disagree with the new Biden school curricula. This is where the issue originated: parts of Biden’s new school curricula are not accepted by many parents and if they disagree, the FBI treats them now as potential domestic terrorists as a matter of policy. Apart from a First Amendment case, this is also a case for international human rights law and I reported the development to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech this week hoping to get a statement.

The Department of Justice is referring to some constitutional provision on “intimidation of views” to override and take down one of the most firmly established rights, the right to freedom of speech, in quite frankly a ridiculous interpretation. Those parents that dare to speak up against controversial parts in the new text books could be investigated for domestic terrorism. This is the most incompetent interpretation on limitations of freedom of speech I have seen in awhile. 

Garland and the FBI have totally lost their marbles. The woke discussion is not funny to me anymore. It increasingly looks like a woke tyranny that has nothing to do with rights and equality anymore but simply serves as a vehicle to empower the FBI to run wild against regular people. This lunacy needs to be stopped.

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