The American election and the desperate belief in better


The US election didn’t deliver the resounding rejection of Trumpism we might have hoped for. Anti-immigrant nationalism still resonates with many Americans. The public sentiments embodied by Trump which saw him initially elected as President haven’t gone away just because he was a Presidential fool. The violence and disarray in America’s public health system, police force and criminal justice system, violence on the streets and in communities, normalised in American culture, show that racism and intolerance are institutionalised, beyond any Presidential figurehead. But those institutionalised values also represent a large body of the American politic who voted for Trump again last week and who threaten to reject the election outcome over coming days.

Even at its resolution, the US election continued to deliver bizarre moments. From Trump’s media conference at the Four Seasons Landscaping Supplies carpark next door to an adult video store and across from a crematorium (what sort of metaphor is that?), to Kamala Harris and Joe Biden’s address to the nation – all dressed in matching black masks, and speaking to a crowd socially distanced-by-car. Ain’t that America? Trump’s Presidency and the election have been black comedy and farce at every turn.

It’s a celebrated moment that sees Kamala Harris, the first black woman Vice-President elected, after 92 white men in the Presidential office since 1798. It took 131 years for women to be allowed to vote in the United States, and a further 45 years for African Americans to be allowed their right to vote too. It’s about time a black woman had access to higher office. Farrah Tomazin notes in the Sydney Morning Herald that from Barack Obama, to Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, there has not been a Democratic presidential nominee in over 40 years who has won the White House without the support of black women.  After this election, women will fill a record of (at least) 131 of 535 seats in the House and Senate but only 49 of them are women of colour. So the election of a coloured woman as Vice-President is an achievement indeed. But it will take a lot more Kamala Harris’ before American political economy and society offer equality for women more broadly, and for black women in particular.

New Zealand politicians have proudly shared photos of themselves with the then Vice-President, now President-elect Joe Biden from when he visited New Zealand in 2016. “Sleepy Joe” is no Barak Obama in the rhetorical stakes, he’s no Bill Clinton in the charm. But he’s no Donald Trump in the reckless, unhinged hazard to America’s reputation and global security. And with Donald’s defeat, around the world, observers have cried, sighed and cheered in relief.

Joe Biden promises to unify, to govern for those who voted for him and those who didn’t, to restore the soul of America.  Given the divided American population, and the finely balanced Congress, Biden is wise to seek peace between Republicans and Democrats. He highlights the challenges of “The battle to control the virus, the battle to build prosperity, the battle to secure (family) healthcare. The battle for racial justice and to root out systemic racism… And the battle to save our planet by getting climate change under control”. He said, “Tonight, the whole world is watching America. And I believe that at our best, America is a beacon for the world. We will lead not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.” -Let’s not forget there’s always an American iron fist in any velvet Presidential glove.

Remember when Barak Obama inflamed the imagination of a whole new generation of voters, with his claims of ‘yes we can’, and dreams of hope? In this election, voters have again endorsed hope, though maybe on a more modest, slightly jaded, scale. America needs more than a change in Commander in Chief. It needs more than promises and rhetoric. It needs more than charm and hope and a black woman Vice-President. But in the face of the crisis of capitalism, climate change and coronavirus, and after four years of Donald Trump, the whole world is desperate to believe in better.


  1. “Anti-immigrant nationalism still resonates with many Americans”
    Anti ILLEGAL immigrant nationalism still resonates with many Americans. Americans both left and right are the most welcoming people I’ve ever met but they don’t appreciate criminal activity.

    Besides how can someone who lives on a couple of small islands in the South Pacific that are surrounded by a 2,000 mile wide moat be critical of US border control? Sheer Hypocrisy!


    Biden stands to make substantial policy gains on covid, race relations and climate change and that has to be better than the ego driven ineptitude of Trump .

    However 70 million people voted for Trump , and one of the key reasons was , a strong economy and the restoration of many American jobs by cancelling or renegotiating Trade Agreements which had stripped the heart out of American manufacturing and the American middle class for decades. That’s why he won in 2016 .That’s why he nearly won in 2020.Had he handled covid better he probably would have secured a second term with relative ease.

    Yes ; the world should be a better place with Biden but lets consider this .

    Biden is a self confessed globalist .He will actively support the WTO ,and the US billionaire plutocracy and corporations with a move away from ” protectionism ” to TPPA /style “globalism ” .This means many of the jobs Trump brought back to America may be exported again to low wage foreign countries .That’s not great for the average American .

    In this regard Biden is no different to the Clintons or Obama .Living in a more socially just ,more ecologically sound America is great but you still need a job ,and more globalism won’t help the American the American middle class rebuild economically rundown communities and regrow manufacturing.

    Biden may deliver on more liberal and progressive social policy but once the party dies down a year from now ,will you still have a job if the Nike factory has been shifted from Chicago to Vietnam ?

    And fundamentally that’s why 70,000,000 Americans still like Trump . He pretty much did what he said he was going to do , which gave middle america economic hope of new jobs in their own country.

    Yes he’s an intolerable planet wrecking,oil loving, racist, covid denying narissistic orange warthog but this bit ,I think he got right .

    The great regret of history is that Bernie Sanders did not get elected in 2016. Like Trump ,Bernie’s dislike for job robbing Trade Agreements like the TPPA , coupled with progressive social justice would have put America in a great place for a second term and the world in a far better position regarding climate change .America could have been very great again , even better than great .

    In my observations neither Trump or Biden are the current answer for America .

    America under a restoration of Bidenistic neoliberal globalism will not bring the jobs back , quite the opposite .More jobs will go .More hope will be lost .Its all happened before.
    The momentum and economic hope created by ” protectionism” is likely to remain whether Trump is present or not .Because it worked for the average person ,they liked it ,and ” the expendables” became useful again .This at least ,Trump got right .

    I hope for Americas sake Biden can restore America , but I suspect he will restore and enhance the profits of the billionaires at the expense of the general population before they wake up and find they have been fooled again .

    As Mark Twain once said ” It is easier to fool someone than to tell them they have been fooled ”
    Good luck America .
    Sometimes I am eternally grateful I live in NZ.

  3. In a grossly overpopulated world suffering the effects of Abrupt Climate Change, acidification of the oceans, loss of biodiversity, depletion of resources and accumulation of waste, better is not possible.

    The only question is this: will politicians make everything worse a little faster or a lot faster?

    The blind adherence to the idiotic theories of economists and bankers, zero action on CO2 emissions and zero preparation for the impending collapse of energy supplies indicates politicians will make everything worse a lot faster.

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