Christ, Saturday night was a mad one. The streets of New York were filled with dancing and shouting and those red cups from the American Pie series. Jubilant crowds cheered in DC, performing the YMCA en masse to the White House’s front lawn. Beverly Hill was dead on Chrissy Teigen’s Instagram, but whatever. Other than LA’s McMansions, the rest of liberal America was relieved, and, evidently, getting leathered: Joe Biden is the president-elect of the United States, Kamala Harris his number two is vice-president elect of the United States – and the first woman and Black-South Asian person in the office. Big news. Cross the Atlantic, and one can assume that a very big glass of port was being poured in Downing Street, shaking hands clasping Lambert & Butlers as an aide was sent to the nearest petrol station for more at 4am. But this imaginary sesh wasn’t one of celebration. There’s every reason to believe our own leader is deep in commiseration mode.
That’s because, over the last four or so years, the unbridled Conservative arse-kissing of Donald Trump was perhaps all for nothing. He’s the only president in history to have enjoyed just one term, faced an impeachment and lost the popular vote twice. Triple whammy. And the Republican president’s endgame means the potential end of a current diplomatic path for Boris Johnson – and perhaps a foreshadowing of voter intentions to come.
Aside from representation and world firsts – which is incredibly important – Biden’s victory means that the lurch to the right isn’t set in stone. And, though it wasn’t a landslide, the Democrats have won against stacked odds: Republican-controlled swing states make it increasingly harder for people to vote, and misinformation runs thick and fast. It’s hard to combat that.
But win Biden did, and the Democrats found millions of votes that were cast in defiance to Donald Trump. People are rejecting this brand of politics. People largely want truth, and a free press. Granted, your distant weird cousin may still be making tinfoil hats and tweeting ‘PLANDEMIC’ every five minutes, but at least we know the majority still trust hard facts. Thank God.
The second biggest upset of modern politics preempted the biggest upset of modern politics: Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. Political volcanoes don’t erupt in a vacuum. They’re related. Just as frustration with the current order of things was a catalyst for the leaving of the European Union, so too was Trump’s election. Same old didn’t cut it. It made sense to cut all ties, Thus, a new order was born. It was nativist, it was nationalist, it was led by strongmen more praised on style over substance.
Which meant we had to leave the EU, no matter what the cost. As a result, the Prime Minister – once the pro-EU, pro-immigration mayor of liberal London – had to make new friends since we’d turned our backs on our European neighbours. America, with its deep pockets, and with our ‘special relationship’ and long ties, was the most obvious option. Flatter Trump, mirror the US’s inward-looking shift, and glean a trade deal.
And the American president, well, he was flattered. Boris was “a good man”, or so says a quoted report from last year in The Guardian. “They’re saying, ‘Britain Trump’. They call him ‘Britain Trump’ and people are saying that’s a good thing.” Which made for a happy marital home between the two truth dodgers – the NHS has long been an attractive prospect to the privatised American system. It’s worth a lot of money. So much so, that Tory MPs voted en masse to an amendment that’d protect the NHS in future trade deals. And, with EU food regulations now defunct, we were primed and hungry for lots of new American foodstuffs. Mmmm, chlorinated chicken.
Plot twist! Trump lost. He will no longer be deciding upon a US-UK trade deal. It is now going to be led by a Biden administration, and the Democrat is far more suspicious of a Conservative Britain. In private, he’s said to find the whole idea of Brexit “nuts” according to a BBC report. And, the Democratic US house speaker Nancy Pelosi – a very big deal in Washington – warned the UK that there would be no trade deal if one pact was broken: the Irish Backstop.
Devised as a way to prevent a hard border in Ireland – one of the key pillars of the Good Friday Agreement which saw an end to the war over Irish independence – it’s been an important part of Brexit negotiations. A few months ago, Johnson’s government sought to override previous agreements made. Biden, an American that is proud of his Irish roots, would in no way endorse a deal that jeopardised peace in Ireland. Which makes sense. Bill Clinton was partly responsible for the Good Friday Agreement in the first place. And Bill Clinton, like Biden, is a Democrat. You don’t flush your friend’s achievements down the toilet.
Also, compare the styles of Biden and Johnson. They couldn’t be more different. The American president-elect is a statesman, the old-fashioned kind from a time in which we didn’t utterly loathe our elected representatives. He has very little in common with Johnson, who is seen as a ‘wing it and see’ opportunist.
To make it worse, The New European reported just yesterday that a source close to Biden dismissed the idea of another ‘special relationship’. We’ve spent years, it seems, dating the wrong guy.
Though the UK gave the Conservatives a thumping majority, the state of a country isn’t permanent. Things change. Where the national mood was once angry, combative and fed up – much like America – Biden’s conciliatory tone beat out the divisiveness of Trump. Johnson, like his new bosom buddy, attacked the press, his enemies and he floods the government with scandal on a daily basis. People may well desire some normalcy. Biden was just elected. Boring looks appealing right about now.
And, though the cliche is crushingly naff, it is true: history does repeat itself, and it is full of patterns and echoes. When America had Ronald Reagan, we had Margaret Thatcher. When they had Bill Clinton, we had Tony Blair. When they had Trump, we had Johnson – and there’s every reason to wonder if the British public will elect someone more in tune with Biden.
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