The term of office of the 45th President of the United Status has revolved around the figure of Donald Trump. The run-up to the election, which took place up to the Democratic and Republican conventions in August, also focused on the President. Since 2016, Donald Trump has managed to attract public opinion to his person. It could be said that his political communication strategy has arrived at just the right time for its acceptance. The American democracy, the oldest and longest-lasting democratic expression in contemporary times, the most influential and decisive, revolves now and over the next 45 days around a person who has been unable to alleviate uncertainty in a country and a world that are currently similar solely in their alarming complexity.
But while in the 2016 presidential election Trump managed to embitter the campaign and tear apart the rigor and coolness that Hillary Clinton sought to use to win the White House through polls and the inertia of Obama, in 2020 Trump’s rhetoric is facing very complex issues from which the President will not be able to deflect attention. The convulsion of the anti-racist explosion that has mobilized the African American minority, but also the “Trumpist supremacists”; the repercussions of climate change in the devastating fires in California; the evolution of the pandemic and the social and economic consequences of the coronavirus; possible speculation on the treatments and vaccines for fighting it; how to take on the growing power of China on the international stage, and its attempt to position itself as a power of solidarity and creator of global public goods, such as the anti-COVID 19 vaccine itself; movements in the Middle East and the diplomatic rapprochement between Israel and the Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf that can be presented as a successful diplomatic action of the Republican administration.
There are many issues that Americans will need to form an opinion on, but which is not yet sufficiently defined. Because, for many millions of Americans, despite the pandemic and the social and economic crisis, the country is better off now than how President Trump found it. For millions of other citizens, just a few more according to the polls, the country is much worse off, not only because of the pandemic and its consequences, but due to an atypical and, at the very least, disconcerting presidency. And, finally, for the thousands and thousands of undecided voters, the most decisive in the swing states, the answer, with the election just a month and a half away, is still not clear.
The other figure int he election, Democratic candidate Joe Biden, twice Vice President, liberal, with experience in foreign policy and in Washington, seems to be an uncertain alternative as well. Perhaps trusting that a low profile in the run-up to the election would enable wear and tear on the President to make an intense political debate unnecessary, the moderate Biden has seen that the latest polls and stock market performance are warning of the renewed energy that the campaign could take on down the home stretch. What is certain today is that he is aware not only that he has nearly half the country on his side, but that some of the other nearly half needs a reliable, credible and sustainable project for voters, individually, to give him a mandate to exercise power over the next four years. It is a project that has millions of citizens excited, who are equally afraid of the advancing radical progressivism and of the anti-system populism.
The 2020 election is no longer just about Trump. Its relevance is consistent with the outlook of change and inflection that society and international relations are undergoing. It is about democracy, rights and liberties. It is about presenting a country that is able to turn around internal pessimism and global confusion. It is about finding a course for the liberal order through reform or readapting to the new global context. It is about strengthening national and international bodies and resources to stop the spread of the pandemic. It is about presenting proposals energetically and with conviction in the next four debates, three between the two Presidential candidates and other between the Vice Presidential candidates.
And it is about answering American citizens, in their ethnic and cultural diversity, free and equal before the law, about whether the political system inherited from their parents or the Founding Fathers is more consistent, more just and stronger today. Whether giving overpower during a period of four years to a democratically elected administration will be responded to by the President elect with a commitment to returning a society to the people that is freer and more respectful to the principles, rights and responsibilities that comprise it. That fiduciary commitment referred to by political scientist Joseph Nye in his book Do morals matter? To evaluate the results in foreign policy of the American Presidents from Roosevelt hasta Trump, and to assess whether the future term of office will be a long-term success capable of reinforcing the interests and values of the United States.
José María Peredo is Professor of Comunication and International Relations at the Grado de Relaciones Internacionales and the Doble Grado en Periodismo y Relaciones Internacionales