20 March 2020
Guest columnist, John Casey, a former press secretary for a Democratic Member of Congress, takes a look at what a potential Joe Biden Presidency may mean for the UK …
Former Vice President Joe Biden is almost a lock to win the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Presidency. Just a few weeks ago, with a plurality of candidates in the race, pundits were predicting a brokered Democratic convention in July, where the presidential nominee would be chosen by the party’s hierarchy in a “smoke filled back room.”
That disaster scenario quickly changed when Democratic voters began to rally behind Biden after he won the state of South Carolina’s primary and followed up by gaining a convincing majority of delegates on Super Tuesday. This week, in delegate rich states of Arizona, Florida and Illinois, Biden trounced his opponent Senator Bernie Sanders putting him in touching distance of the finishing line.
So now that the Democrats have their would-be nominee, what might the future hold for U.S./U.K. relations if Biden is elected president?
Clearly, the biggest issue hovering over everyone’s future right now is what will become of the Coronavirus pandemic. The world is going to drastically change within the next year. The uncertainty and questions go beyond the what ifs of a possible Biden presidency. Namely, how – or when – will the global economy bounce back? How severe will the spread and ramifications of the COVID-19 virus be, and will there be wave after wave of illness in each country as experts are predicting? Will deficits, pervasive unemployment and bottomed-out global markets negatively disturb international trade, production and finance?
What happens during the next few months, or years, as governments cope with the fallout from the virus, will have a dramatic impact on international relations, and relations between individual countries.
Should Biden be elected in the Fall, it is likely to do little to stem the tide of nationalism that has begun to sweep the planet. While global cooperation is occurring now, nations may be quick to revert back to separatism, focusing on lifting their own populations out of widespread joblessness, building back strong economies from depressions and protecting the health and safety of their peoples. Trade and diplomacy being sacrificed for singular, national survival.
For this reason, it is difficult to predict a way forward for the U.K. and the U.S. until we know the damage that has been left behind by the coronavirus pandemic.
What we do know, however, is that Biden would bring a wealth of international foreign policy experience to the presidency. As U.S. Vice President for eight-years, and as a long-time member, and former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden is infinitely more familiar with the history of British politics and foreign policy than his Republican opponent. His tenure in government touches 10 British Prime Ministers, stretching back to Sir Edward Heath in the early 1970s.
The “special relationship” has always superseded political parties and personal relations between prime ministers and presidents. Tony Blair was close to both to Democrat Bill Clinton and Republican George W. Bush. Maintaining close ties has always been priority number one between the two countries’ leaders. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Donald Trump relationship can be loosely defined as odd – a perfect metaphor for each man’s caricature.
It will be interesting to see how Trump lite, Johnson, interacts with someone who is the antithesis of Trump. But Biden is friendly with everyone, even his cantankerous presidential primary opponent Sanders, so expect a warm personal relationship.
As a seasoned politician, Biden is also smart enough to know to keep his hands-off Brexit. While Trump inserted himself into the Brexit game, Biden won’t touch it. So, from across the pond, expect Biden to monitor Brexit and wait for a final outcome in the UK-EU trade deal under Johnson’s self-imposed deadline. Biden will then make sure that any new trade agreements or tariffs with the US will be mutually beneficial, whilst still putting US economic self-interest first, even if not as obviously as Trump’s America First policy.
On issues like climate change, Iran, North Korea and other hot spots, Biden’s views may be a welcomed reprieve from the topsy-turvy and negligent diplomacy of the Trump administration. Johnson and Biden may find common ground on issues that affect both their countries internationally.
We can definitively conclude that if Biden is elected, he will be far more popular on your side of the Atlantic than his predecessor. According to a recent Pew Research poll, only 22% of U.K. respondents trusted Trump. If his handling of the coronavirus and the impact of the American economy adversely tarnishes the rest of the world, Trump’s numbers will surely drop. Biden may not be the saviour that America, the U.K. and the rest of the world is waiting for, but he will bring back the stability, trust and stature of the United States.
Finally, the British Prime Minister has joked he likes to relax by making models of buses. And the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is known for his nearly 40-year, daily rides on the U.S. Amtrak train. Perhaps their shared love of mass transportation will translate to joint endeavours that improve each country’s badly fraying infrastructure? Regardless, if Biden is elected, the countries’ “special relationship” will be in for a brand-new ride.
John Casey is Lead Columnist for The Advocate, the largest LGBTQ site in the United States; a public relations professional and an Adjunct Professor of Digital Media and Marketing at Wagner College in New York City.
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