An end of a sarcastic chapter

US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to unite the country as he called it 'a time to heal in America', after his historic victory over Donald Trump in a bitter and closely-fought presidential election. Donald Trump has so far refused to concede the election that attracted a record number of Americans to cast their votes amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic. He has announced filing multiple lawsuits against the election results. The past four years have challenged American democracy. While the country’s political institutions have long shown signs of disrepair, the Donald Trump presidency exposed their abject decay. The president governed as if checks and balances were a nuisance, rather than a necessity.
For the roughly 75 million Americans who backed Biden, the desire to turn the page is palpable. Women, ethnic and racial minorities, and urban and suburban dwellers turned out in historic numbers to put an end to the Trump presidency. This is no small matter: Trump is the first incumbent president to lose his re-election bid in a quarter-century. Despite the fact that Biden garnered five million more votes than Trump, more than 70 million Americans stood solidly behind Trump and the margins in several battleground states were razor-thin.
The US has a Federal Election Commission but it does not conduct elections in America. Its job is to regulate financing in election campaigns. The US presidential election is conducted by local authorities in different states. Simply put, the ruling government or governments conduct the US presidential election. And, it goes without saying that the ruling party would love to see its party candidate win, at least from the state it governs.
The US does not have a central or national voters’ list. That is, local authorities create a voters’ list in every locality through a process that requires citizens to register as voters. Selective registration procedures have been used in the past to discourage a certain group of citizens. African Americans have often been at the receiving end.
What does this mean for India? While Biden will want to signal the US’s return as a responsible global stakeholder, the incoming administration will initially be consumed by domestic affairs. In the medium-term, the outlook for India is bright — expect Biden to carry forward many of the cooperative policies that the Obama administration pursued, on subjects from the climate crisis to defence collaboration. Economic irritants won’t disappear overnight, but a less hostile outlook on immigration and trade deficits will help. Anyway, with this election, the US closes a sarcastic chapter in its political history. 

- Prabhakar Purandare

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