Why US presidential election is not exciting this time around

A Biden win would mean an extended period of US domination of collective institutional and governmental decision-making. [iStockphoto]

It's almost inevitable, and certain, that this year's US presidential election will be a rematch between incumbent President Joe Biden of the Democratic Party and his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump. It's a repeat of their 2020 clash, only with the positional nuance of Biden being the president and Trump the opposition candidate this time around.

It's not that hard, however, to have an accurate synoptic look-ahead to the likely policy positions of either candidate were they to win. 

Trump would definitely be the leader of a United States that's inward-looking and parochial. And would, like he did during his first term in office, either wangle out of joining or pull the US out of global treaties on such important areas of international cooperation as climate change action, migration and policy commitment to cleaner energy sources, free trade, immigration, human rights and international security.

He would, again, just like during his first term, not care about the interests and place of the countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe in the larger community of nations. The US would still range herself with Israel in the decades-long conflict in the Middle East. And, for the world, it would mark the return to political populism as the handmaiden of the relationship between the people and government.

He would be friendlier to Russia's Vladimir Putin and, perhaps, North Korea's Kim Jong-Un. But there's no guarantee that would lead to the augmentation of international security's quotient and détente. 

A Biden win, on the other hand, would mean an extended period of US domination of collective institutional and governmental decision-making. The Bretton Woods institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) would continue their dictation and domination of governmental decision-making around fiscal policy and action in Kenya, for instance. Israel would still enjoy Washington's support and protection from accountability for continued war crimes in Palestine and the Middle East. And the US would still be far from being able to make credible pretensions to being the stalwart of global democracy as that would fly in the face of the rise to power of "user-friendly" puppets, particularly in Africa.

About four years ago, in an essay inspired by the 2020 US presidential elections that saw Biden defeat then-president Donald Trump, I observed that the United States was no longer the bastion of global democracy. Not only did Trump and his supporters claim, without evidence, that the election was stolen, but also tried to arm-twist US systems into overturning its results. 

In the weeks following the election, his team mounted an unsuccessful legal bid to have the results, especially in the crucial states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Virginia, overturned. It didn't help that during his four-year term in office, between 2017 and 2021, Trump had appointed three conservative justices to the US Supreme Court. The country's top court, like all others in the various states across the country where his team challenged the results, including in Pennsylvania and Texas, where he had won, found no merit in his claims of electoral fraud.

Trump had said that he would concede defeat and accept that he'd lost only if the Electoral College, the country's fabled system that's decided who becomes president since 1787, said he did. The Electoral College confirmed Joe Biden as the country's next president in late 2020. But Trump still couldn't be satisfied. In the final days of 2020, revelations emerged of his suggestion and wish to use the US military to try and force a re-run of the election across the country.

And on January 6, 2021, as the US Congress convened to certify Biden's win amid preparation for his inauguration on January 20, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol Building, smashing windows, stealing and trifling with stuff, including the podium and computers in then-Democratic Speaker Nancy P Pelosi's office, while Trump kept up his baseless charge that the election had been stolen from him and Americans.

The turn of events in America, slightly before and since Trump's unprecedented claims and refusal to concede defeat, took away the country's standing as the global citadel of democracy. America had never been so divided, not even during the Civil War of 1861-65, when pro-slavery Confederate leader Jefferson Davis set up his base in Richmond, Virginia, and threatened to hive off a whole 15 states from the rest of the Union; or even when, during the country's third president Thomas Jefferson's time in office, then vice-president Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton, the country's first Treasury Secretary, and connived both locally and internationally to carve up parts of the country for his own capture and rule. 

The pro-Trump mob's actions on January 6 (2021) were unprecedented. Not since the War of 1812, during which the British Army torched the White House, had a group tried to threaten the integrity of a US government installation in Washington DC. Trump's and his supporters' refusal to accept defeat and allow the peaceful transfer of power in a country that prides itself in the strength of systems and an exemplary quotient of democracy made a nonsense of Washington's homilies to the rest of the world on matters elections and democracy. Certainly, it's bound to take years, even decades, to undo the damage his rise to power and prominence in US politics has done to the country, her people and institutions and, of course, global democracy.