Biden’s was a ‘good’ bad win. He took the Presidency, held the House – albeit with a reduced majority – but failed to take the Senate. The two run-offs in Georgia look possible rather than probable. Even a win in both races leaves the Senate dead-locked at 50-50 and only breaking to the Democrats for two years, with Vice-President Kamala Harris’ casting vote, before being swept back into Republican hands with the 2022 mid-term elections.
Biden’s victory over Trump’s nativist xenophobia, blithe racism and shiftless authoritarianism is pause – not cause – for celebration. Biden will be in custom and practice a snapback to the bad old days of Washington politics. It’s the lens of Trump’s departure that misleads as a rosy glow. Half a century in politics never saw the next President dressing to the left. He’s not going to start now.
The Democrats desperately cling to the illusion that they can peel away Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski from the Republicans. The reality is when push comes to shove they’re all mouth and no trousers, hawking their consciences to no consequence. All the more so with Trump threatening to emulate Grover Cleveland, the only President (1885—89, 1893-97) to re-capture the White House after a defeat. Trump’s mob of devotees – unless beaten by biology – give him a lock on the 2024 Republican nomination.
The result is domestic deadlock, with Biden hostage to Senate Republicans unwilling and unable to collaborate with the enemy. With no choice but bargain, the ransom to the beggars of Wall Street will prove steep. Biden’s mark will make be abroad. It will be guns and better. With, or even without, a Brussels Deal there is little on the trade table for Johnson. The issue is whether we are in the game at all or at the back of the queue. Biden’s fashion consciousness as to his Irish heritage makes any new Irish border a bar, without the need to replay Johnson’s gratuitous references to Obama for Kenya.
Washington’s trade priorities will revisit membership of the Comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CTPP) – on Trump’s desk ready to be sign in 2016 – and attempt to breathe fresh life into the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the EU that would constitute the world’s biggest trade deal. This second is an easy sell in Washington – if agriculture is in the mix – but fiercely controversial in Brussels with threats to labour rights, food standards and the subordination of new EU legislation to the multinationals, the result of the privileging provisions of Investor-State Dispute Settlement. France’s farmers and films may have to ride to the rescue.
Washington’s central foreign policy focus will be in Beijing. Trump’s tantrums were the response to the very dilemma Biden faces; how to contain a rising Superpower closing in to successively break the three legs of American hegemony, R&D, the dollar and military monopoly. Biden will speak in a lower register, cloaking comprehensive containment in the language of conciliation and compromise. His underliying goal will remain the same. Biden’s wants to rebuild the Transatlantic political relationship for export. NATO spending should surge to spend abroad, not at home. Here Britain remains – for the moment before the second Scottish Referendum – an important player on the UN Secretary Council and n NATO.
Johnson’s recent £16.5 Billion November bonus for Britain’s military is the buy-in to US security plans. The Queen Elizabeth, the UK’s biggest and best aircraft carrier, due in service in 2021 has already trialed integrated operations with US forces. Deployment is to follow in the Gulf and Pacific. It would be a geographical surprise if that didn’t include joint Freedom of Navigation Operations in Chinese territorial waters that will have Beijing scrambling their fighter-bombers. Biden is signed up to the Pentagon’s new Indo-Pacific Command and Trump’s enthusiasm to build ‘NATO in Asia.’ The Quad – an alliance of the US, India, Japan and Australia – had its first joint naval exercise in 2020 and now the pressure is on for a Quad Plus containment of China. The key is coercing Seoul into developing a ‘blue water’ navy choosing US security interests over its biggest economic partner Beijing. Washington via NATO wants the EU onboard. Does Labour see Britain in the role of ‘judas goat’ allaying entry inhibitions from Seoul and Brussels to triggering a new Cold War as somewhere we want to go? The last time we played patsy it gave us Iraq.
Ford, G. (2021). Biden in the UK, Chartist, January/February.