Scholar says it’s not clear Biden can overcome polarization soon

TEHRAN – An American academic says she is not sure Biden can deal with the polarization in the U.S. which has resulted from Donald Trump’s policies. 

“It is not clear that President Biden can overcome the polarization any time soon, though the American people very much hope for that,” Elizabeth Sanders tells the Tehran Times.

“Since the Civil War of 1861-65, the two parties have not been so polarized. That is a very unfortunate situation,” Sanders points out.

The rise of polarization over the past years has made many Americans worried about the state of politics.

Republicans and Democrats are more divided along political and ideological lines – and partisan antipathy has been going deeper and more extensive – than at any point over the last two decades. These trends manifest themselves in myriad ways, both in politics and in everyday life.

Many pundits consider the attack on the Capitol building on January 6 as a turning point in the history of the United States.

For this reason, Joe Biden has a long road ahead to repair the deep-rooted division in America, especially when it comes to polarization between the two main parties: Democrats and Republicans.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What are the repercussions of Biden’s win in presidential elections domestically and internationally? Do you predict any fundamental shift in U.S. policies?

 A: There will certainly be major changes in both domestic and foreign policy. The Democratic Party and the Trump-led Republican Party are ideologically polarized.

1. Domestic policy under Biden and the Democratic Congress will involve far greater spending and a focus on helping minorities and women.

2. Foreign policy will be far more oriented toward multilateral diplomacy.

3. The conduct of executive branch government will be led by people with experience and expertise, rather than amateurs whose major qualification is unquestioning support for the president. Trump was a remarkably unusual president in his personality and lack of any prior political experience. His election in 2016 should not be seen as representing any long-standing characteristics of the American people. It was an act of desperation amid rising inequality and hopelessness, and Hillary Clinton’s heavy-handed defeat of Bernie Sanders for the party’s nomination.

Q: Some believe that the recent presidential election and its aftermath left a deep rift in U.S. domestic political scene. What is your opinion? 

 A: Hard to deny that. Since the Civil War of 1861-65, the two parties have not been so polarized. That is a very unfortunate situation. It is not clear that President Biden can overcome the polarization any time soon, though the American people very much hope for that.
There are ways that the Biden administration could attempt such reconciliation—like adopting some version of the policies that both Trump and social-democrat Bernie Sanders supported (abandonment of trade treaties promoting the interests of large global corporations, restraining illegal migration seen as costing American jobs, and abandoning regime-change wars backed by previous Republican and Democratic governments). Some attempt to reform rather chaotic local vote-counting processes to increase public confidence in election outcomes would help, too.

The Democratic Party beginning with Bill Clinton had drastically changed the party’s orientation toward labor, and Biden seems inclined to remedy that, as well as to be somewhat more protective of American industrial jobs. However, his encouragement of large-scale immigration is a policy position increasingly controversial in most Western democracies, seen as a threat to both labor and cultural values (and more recently, to the spread of Covid19).

Q: Democrats’ efforts to impeach Trump for the second time failed. What are the messages and implications of this failure?

A: One clear message is that the majority of Congressmembers supported a guilty verdict, but the constitutional process required a 2/3 vote in the Senate. And the legal battle to punish Trump (and those who stormed Congress) for a variety of actions is continuing. Hundreds of Congress invaders will be found guilty, and Trump is forever tainted in the minds of the American majority. There is, and will be increased local and national government attention to the dangers posed by extremist groups, and great social pressure by communities and families of the extremists who invaded Congress.

 Q: How may the domestic struggle and division ultimately affect the performance of the Biden administration’s foreign policy?

A: Domestic struggles will encourage continued moves to protect American jobs in trade policy, and to peacefully constrain China’s economic and military power. Skepticism about the friendly policy of both Republican and Democratic parties toward Saudi Arabia has been in evidence for years. And a solid majority of Americans back a return to the Trump-blocked international agreement with Iran, and avoidance of conflict in the Middle East (West Asia).
(see, for example, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/10/us/politics/trump-iran-polls.html).

Q: Some claim that the bipartisan (two-party) system is outdated and the U.S. needs a third solution as Democrats and Republicans have failed to tackle the deep-rooted challenges in the country. What is your comment? 

A: Well, we’ve had a two-party system for over 200 years. I can’t imagine that changing. Of course, within both parties, there can be discontent and support for change. The Republicans now face the greatest challenge…to secure a majority without the extremely divisive Donald Trump.

Democratic politics is inventive. Eventually, the GOP will come up with a non-Trump strategy.

A few pundits predict that it will evolve from its long-term orientation as the Party of Capital toward being the Party of the Working Class (and not just the white working-class). See, for example, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/can-republicans-become-a-multiracial-working-class-party; and https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/07/opinion/sunday/is-there-a-trumpism-after-trump.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage.)

Predictions in an established democracy are not easy. But I think most American political historians are confident that democracy will survive. Because the people want it to.
 

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