Biden wins – experts on what it means for race relations, US foreign policy and the Supreme Court

The American public had its say and for the first time in a generation a sitting president denied a second term.

President Trump’s term lasted only four years, but during that time he has dragged policy on a variety of key issues in a dramatic new direction.

Joe Biden’s victory, confirmed the Associated Press late on November 7, provides an opportunity to restore the White House agenda and put it on a different course.

Three scholars discuss what a Biden presidency can represent in three key areas: race, the Supreme Court and foreign policy.

Racism, policing and Black Lives Matter protests

Brian Purnell, Bowdoin College

The next four years under Biden’s government are likely to see improvements in racial justice. But for many, it will be a low standard to clear up: President Donald Trump racist violence dropped, aimed at right-wing extremists and describes Black Lives Matter as a “symbol of hatred” during his four-year term.

According to the polls, most Americans do agree. race relations have deteriorated under Trump.

Yet Biden is in some ways an unlikely president to advance a progressive racial agenda. In the 1970s he oppose bus schedules and halted attempts to break schools in Delaware, his homeland. And in the mid-nineties he advocates a federal crime bill that has made detention rates for black people worse. He bored the hearings that Clarence Thomas brought to the Supreme Court by allowing Republican senators to reject Anita Hill’s damning testimony of Thomas’ sexual harassment and by not allowing other black women to testify.

But that was then.

During the 2020 campaign, Vice President Biden consistently spoke about problems stemming from systemic racism. Many voters will hope so his actions over the next four years must match his campaign words.

One area that the Biden government will surely pay attention to is policing and racial justice. The Department of Justice can be held accountable for police reform by returning to practices instituted by the Obama administration to monitor and reform police departments, such as the use of permission levels. Tougher reforms require redress how mass incarceration caused widespread voting rights in black American and Latino communities.

“My administration will encourage states to automatically restore voting rights for individuals convicted of crimes after serving their sentences,” Biden said. said the Washington Post.

The murder of George Floyd earlier this year spoke again on tackling systemic racial discrimination through fundamental change in how police departments hold officers accountable for misconduct and excessive violence. It is unclear how far President Biden will go on this path. But the words of late civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis call, he at least proposed at the Democratic National Convention that America was ready to do the hard work of ‘eradicating systemic racism’.

President Biden can help address how Americans think of and deal with unprecedented racial prejudice by reversing the executive order of the previous administration to ban anti-racism training and workshops. In this way, President Biden can continue to build psychological research on prejudice to make American workplaces, schools and government institutions fair, just places.

Making progress in fighting systemic racism will be a slow, uphill battle. A more immediate benefit for color communities can be obtained President Biden’s COVID Pandemic Response – the Trump administration’s failure to limit the spread of coronavirus led to deaths and economic consequences that have fallen excessively on racial and ethnic minorities.

On race relations in the US, most Americans would agree that the era of Trump saw the picture get worse. The good news for Biden as president is there to go.

The Supreme Court

Morgan Marietta, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Despite the fact that American voters gave Democrats the presidency, the Conservative Supreme Court will still rule on the nature and scope of constitutional rights.

These freedoms are regarded by the court as’out of reach of majorities, “which means that they are meant to be immune to the changing beliefs of the electorate.

Nominees from Democrats and Republicans, however, tend to have very different opinions about what rights the Constitution protects and what is left to majority rule.

The dominant legal philosophy of the Conservative majority – originality – see rights as powerful but limited. The protection of rights explicitly recognized by the Constitution, such as freedom of religion, speech, press and arms, is likely to intensify over the next four years. But the protection of extended rights that the court found in the phrase “due process” in the 14th Amendment, including privacy or reproductive rights, may collapse.

The administration of Biden is unlikely to deal with the court’s future rulings on suffrage, gay rights, religious rights or the rights of non-citizens. Ditto for any statements about abortion, guns, the death penalty and immigration. But there is little that President Biden can do to control the independent judiciary.

Dissatisfied with what a strong Conservative majority can do to the court – including possibly overthrow the law on affordable care – many Democrats have advocated radical approaches to seeing the court change and how it works, although Biden himself has not stated a clear position.

Suggested options include deadline, to add a retirement age, stripping the jurisdiction of the court for specific federal legislation, or to increase the size of the court. This strategy is historically known as court packaging.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg opposed the expansion of the court and told NPR in 2019 that “if the court made something seem biased, it would be … one side says: ‘If we are in power, we will increase the number of judges, we will have more people who will vote the way we want. ”

The Constitution does not determine the number of judges on the court, but leaves it to Congress. The number has been set at nine since the 1990s, but Congress can pass a law expanding the number of judges to 11 or 13, creating two or four new seats.

However, it requires agreement by both houses of Congress.

The IDP looks likely maintain close control over the Senate. A 50/50 split is possible, but it will only be clear in January when Georgia holds two by-elections. Any proposed reforms of the court will be difficult, if not impossible, to succeed under a divided Congress.

This leaves Biden’s government hoping for retirements that would gradually change the ideological balance of the court.

One of the most likely Judge Clarence Thomas, who is 72 and the longest-serving member of the present court. Samuel Alito is 70 and Chief Justice John Roberts is 65. In other professions it may sound like people retiring soon, but at the Supreme Court it is less likely. With the other three Conservative judges in their 40s or 50s, Biden’s government may have been in conflict with the court for some time.

Foreign policy and defense

Neta Crawford, Boston University

Elected President Biden has indicated that he will do three things to restore US foreign policy.

First, Biden will change the tone of U.S. foreign relations. The platform of the Democratic Party calls its division on military foreign policy ‘the renewal of American leadership“and emphasizes diplomacy as an” instrument of first resort. “

It looks like Biden sincerely believe in diplomacy and intends to restore relations with U.S. allies that have been damaged over the past four years. Conversely, while Trump, according to some, was too friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he calls him a ‘great person, “Biden is likely to at least rhetorically take a more difficult line with Russia.

This change of tone is also likely to include rejoining some of the treaties and international agreements that the United States abandoned under the Trump administration. The most important of these are: the climate in Paris The agreement, which the US officially withdrew on November 4, and the restoration of funding for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If the US is to extend the New START Nuclear Weapons Convention, if the arms control agreement with Russia expires in February, the incoming Biden government will probably have to work with the outgoing government on an expansion. Praying also means a willingness to rejoin the Iran agreement jammed by Trump, if and when the Iranians return to the limits on nuclear infrastructure imposed by the deal.

Second, in contrast to the huge increase in military spending under President Trump, President Biden can make modest cuts in the U.S. military budget. Although he said that cuts are not “inevitable“during his presidency, Biden gave an indication of a smaller military presence overseas and is likely to change some priorities at the Pentagon by emphasizing, for example, high-tech weapons. If the Senate – which must ratify any treaties – passes to Democrats’ control, the Biden government can take more ambitious steps in controlling nuclear weapons by pursuing deeper cuts with Russia and the Comprehensive test ban treaty.

Third, the Biden government is likely to pursue some foreign policy priorities of Bush, Obama and Trump. Specifically, while a Biden government wants to do this ends war in Afghanistan, the administration will focus on defeating the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. Biden has said he will reduce the current 5,200 US troops in Afghanistan up to 1,500-2,000 troops acting in the region in a role against terrorism. The Biden government is likely to make the massive continuation modernization of nuclear weapons and modernization programs for air and naval equipment launched under the Obama administration and accelerate and expand under President Trump, if only because they are popular with members of Congress who see the work they do in their states.

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And like Bush, Obama and Trump before him, the Biden government will prioritize the economic and military threats that China believes. But in line with its emphasis on diplomacy, the Biden government is also likely to do more to curb China through diplomatic engagement and by work with US allies in the region.

Brian J Purnell, Associate Professor in Africana Studies and History, Bowdoin College; Morgan Marietta, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Lowell, en Neta C. Crawford, Professor of Political Science and Departmental Chair, Boston University


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