By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, Nov 7 2020 (IPS) – The election tie, whatever the end result, that has been revealed is not a temporary phenomenon. The protagonist of Trump’s resistance is not the tenant of the White House of the last four years. The real agent, although the constitutional winner is Biden, is that sector that for decades was considered an abnormality.
The harsh reality is that the general perception outside of the United States did not understand the message of 2016. And perhaps it still does not understand it now. And, worse, it will never understand it, if one does not pay attention to the peculiarities of this society, dramatized by Trump.
As soon as the glory of winning World War II faded, America’s apparent national cohesion disappeared. Some continued to believe that they had monopolized the soul of the country, founded on exceptionalism, “the light of the beacon on the hill.” But some alarm signals began to sound with the repression of the so-called Hollywood Communists.
Dissidents silenced themselves as early as the 1960s, Kennedy’s assassination was not seen as a danger to the national consensus. But an underground feeling demanded to come out of the closet. Nixon called it the silent majority. It was speechless during the Vietnam tragedy. It conveniently drugged itself with the satisfaction of the end of the Cold War… and of history.
Just then a handful of novelists had wondered as Zavalita, the secondary character in the novel by Mario Vargas Llosa “Conversation in‘ La Catedral ’”: “at what point did Peru get screwed”. Some daring commentators would try too late to allude to the reaction to the sinking of the Maine in Havana, which prompted the United States to invade further Latin America, irritating Cuban patriots. The consequence half a century later this produced the Castro Revolution.
The Washington establishment barely flinched and believed it would recover with the end of the Cold War and also “of history”, according to the myth of Fukuyama. But that ephemeral glory failed to hide the internal problems that successive US presidents was impotent to correct. Imbalances, discrimination, marginalization, discomfort, and basic grief over the appearance of defects in the American dream were detected.
The problem was that the victims were no longer exclusively the traditional losers (black, Hispanic, native), but also components of the formerly middle layers of society. In addition, the components of the economic elite had been added.
They seemed not to be content with the tax advantages they had enjoyed. They also tried to control the political evolution without getting involved in the electoral contests, an ordinary function that they left in the hands of professionals.
The result of recent presidential elections is a clear portrait of three Americas, each in its own way believing that it has the right to be “great again,” according to Trump’s slogan. It was already noticed with Obama’s double election: the potential electorate had been sharply divided into three.
A third has stayed home, always. Another third has voted for the various Democratic Party options. The final rest has historically taken refuge in the Republicans, sheltered by that sector that does not seem to respond to specific party lines. Now it has equipped himself with all the paraphernalia that has captured half the vote in the recent elections.
But the novelty of the last decade, after the defenestration of the traditionalism of the Bushes, is not the appearance of Trump. The news is the consolidation of the leadership of the third sector that Trump has awakened. It is not a temporary phenomenon. In reality, it existed since the founding myth of the United States was questioned by that third that has remained latent, timid of prominence.
Like a sleeping princess, she lacked only the kiss of a daring prince, who was not tied to partisan conventions. It does not matter that the princess behaved like a witch to the other two-thirds of the electorate. That quirk hasn’t mattered to Trump, who has captured the role of the prince.
Whatever the official result of the elections, the truth is that the previously hidden America will continue to lurk (with more determination if Trump wins). It will press for the abandonment of the traditional alliances of the United States, it will reject any regional integration scheme (barely reduced to a functional NAFTA), it will continue to reject re-entry into UNESCO, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (OMS), and it will not even pragmatically take advantage of its privileged place at the UN.
In the defense field, it will not know how to use wisely the “soft” power of military superiority, it will play dangerously with the abandonment of NATO, it could get involved in dangerous operations in the Middle East, fatally mistaking his useful allies. Continuing the bet of unconditional support for the current Israeli government would be a zero-pay bet.
Any miscalculation with China and Russia could render a high cost, especially in the face of an American society that is fed up with warlike excuses that do not reverse social returns and only fill the graves available in Arlington.
But, in the event of an effective final victory for Biden, the agenda that the new president will have to face would precisely include the latent and permanent presence of an America hitherto silent by the grace of Trump.
In this scenario, the new president will not be able to avoid the spectacle of social destruction, the division into irreconcilable factions, the urgent installation (with a residence permit tending to sublimate oneself in citizenship) of the huge groups of recent immigrants.
And in general, abroad it should be coldly understood that the new US government will not going to be radically different from what is considered essential to the practically immovable US interests. Biden will have to respond to the demands not only of his voters, but also of the reasonable interests of the country and the consequent pressures of his society.
Europe, for example, must understand that the demand for the involvement of its governments in continental defense does not respond simply to a whim of the current leader, but not to a reconstitution of the military fabric. The American society will continue to pressure its government to obtain legitimate benefits in terms of the results of the trade agreements. Therefore, it will be necessary to achieve a beneficial harmony for both parties.
Finally, Latin America must strive to present a minimum common front if it wants to obtain new advantages, not based on arbitrary decisions of temporary origin. When dealing with the United States, whether with Biden or Trump, the division will always be detrimental, especially for the interests of Latin American citizens.
Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center of the European Union at the University of Miami.