ON Wednesday Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. He has taken over at a perilous moment in American history. Four years of Trump presidency have polarized America. And the recent Capitol siege by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the outcome of the presidential election symbolised what has gone wrong with the US during Trump’s term. In his inaugural speech, President Biden called for America to unite and “end this uncivil war”. He called on Republicans to join him in confronting the nation’s economic, social and health crises. Biden used the word “unity” or “uniting” 11 times to send out a conciliatory message. Without naming Trump, Biden said that the democracy has won in America. “We’ve learned again that democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” he said. Soon after his oath, Biden began dismantling his predecessor’s legacy with orders to halt construction of his border wall, lift his travel ban including that on Muslims and rejoin the Paris climate agreement.
As Biden was delivering his address, Washington had been transformed into a garrison, with 25,000 National Guard troops joining thousands of police officers to prevent protests by Trump supporters. Similarly, Biden spoke to an empty National Mall with flags standing in for the absent crowd due to the still raging pandemic that has claimed 400,000 American lives.
Trump didn’t attend the oath ceremony but his Vice President Mike Pence did. Trump had left Washington hours before the swearing-in. In a message to his supporters, Trump without naming Biden said he wished the “new administration great luck and great success”.
Taking over of Biden as next US president is not just an election win. It marks a momentous shift back to a liberal order in the US and hopefully later in the rest of the world. Under Trump, the US had lurched towards far-right. Under Trump, we were witness to a stunning closing of the American mind.
Under Biden, America will be hoped to go back to its core democratic values. This will be good for the rest of the world many parts of which are witnessing “the pandemic of authoritarianism”, to borrow the phrase of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. And the Trump administration was underpinning this “pandemic”. There’s hope that a liberal US administration will reverse this trend by keeping a leash on the right-wing governments.
Also under Biden, the US will be expected to once again assume its leadership role in the world. Trump had withdrawn from multilateral agreements like Paris climate accord and the US’ own nuclear agreement with Iran. The US had also stopped raising the issues of human rights violations across the world. Biden will hopefully change this.
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