Donald Trump and the future of bi-partisan politics
Joshua Hughes reflects on the current climate of polarisation in the United States in the wake of the Capitol riots.
In the words of George Washington “The peaceful transition of power is what will separate this country from every other country in the world.” In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, these words bear a profound meaning and highlight the danger of the situation the United States finds itself in. In a bitter election campaign engulfed by the looming presence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the divisive nature of the American political system is now on full display.
While Trump may have made headlines for incidents such as the impeachment trials and the trade war with China, his refusal to concede will leave a sour taste in the mouths of Republicans and Democrats alike for years to come. The events that have taken place in the period after the election, most significantly with an assault on the Capitol for the first time since 1814, have thrown presidential convention out of the window. The refusal to concede the election marks the latest battle in Donald Trump’s war with the truth; it started with the number of people attending his inauguration and has ended with the number of people who voted for him.
The refusal to concede the election has become a polarising matter. Longstanding Republican-elected representatives have supported Trump’s claims of voter fraud, in contrast with fierce contestation from Democratic representatives. Trump’s continued lack of concession has become a painful process as his allies concede one by one. The latest in the long line of these was Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, whose concession has indicated that the Republican Party’s support for Trump is waning. In retaliation, Trump purposefully blocked the Covid-19 relief bill which had been agreed between Nancy Pelosi and McConnell. In a stunning move, he proposed that the $600 stimulus cheque awarded be upgraded to $2000 in alignment with the Democrats, arguably with the intention to spite McConnell.
The Democrat victory for both seats underscores the detrimental nature of Trump’s strategy to his own party
The destructive exit from the White House continues to evolve as the President scrambles to dish out a whole host of Presidential Pardons and execution orders. Days before the senate runoff elections, a recording of a phone call with Georgia’s Secretary of State emerged in which Trump was quoted saying “I just want to find 11,780 votes”. The subsequent Democrat victory for both seats underscores the detrimental nature of Trump’s strategy to his own party. The storming of the Capitol was a result of both Trump’s refusal to concede and, more directly, prominent members of the administration inciting violence – most notably, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani called for a “trial by combat”. It is now no surprise that the President has been impeached for an historic second time.
Joe Biden has a huge task ahead of him if he is to fulfil his election promises and steady the ship amidst a global pandemic which has had untold economic and social consequences. The Biden cabinet is beginning to take shape and with the swing vote in the Senate, will almost certainly be confirmed. With the Cabinet nominations coming through some light has been shed on the way Biden will govern and the direction he is taking Washington and the Democrat Party in.
At a first glance, the cabinet is in contrast with Trump’s in two ways: diversity and prior political experience. Regarding the latter, the nominee for secretary of state Anthony Blinken, for one example, served as both Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy National Security Advisor in the Obama administration.
Biden’s primary objective will be to heal the divides that have dominated the conversation for the past four years
Conversely, the incumbent Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was an outsider prior to his appointment, having been a member of Congress and mainly serving on select committees for energy and commerce. Before Pompeo, Rex Tillerson had been CEO of ExxonMobil, a large oil and natural resources company. Ultimately, Tillerson had no political experience before assuming the role, demonstrating the Trump administration’s attitude towards political convention. The difference in experience and political perspectives with Blinken is a sign of the shifts that will occur once Biden assumes office.
In terms of diversity, Biden’s senior staff team is indeed a diverse mix with half of the team being from BAME background and with women making up over half of the team too. The representation in this cabinet points to Biden’s objectives for when he is inaugurated – with the polarisation of the US political climate, Biden’s primary objective will be to heal the divides that have dominated the conversation for the past four years. The 2020 election demonstrated that this will be no mean feat, with Biden winning just 51.3% of the vote.
The storming of the Capitol was a predictable culmination of the actions and attitude of Donald Trump over the past four years. However, voices within the Republican party that have stayed silent have now turned on Trump in the wake of the violence; it is clear that Trump’s own actions have been his undoing, so perhaps a path is now emerging for the states to return to a bi-partisan environment where respect, tolerance and truth are a given instead of being fought for.