No matter from which country you are, there is an extremely high probability that you immediately know which topic this article deals with just by reading the title. And you are right, this article is about the upcoming presidential election in of the two North American states, namely: the United States of America (short: USA). More specifically, this article assesses which candidate would be better from a global perspective, while the North American interests remain at the periphery of this article.
It might be puzzling why the elections of this particular state receive so much media coverage, compared to other elections in the over 160 other democratic states around the world. Although it is one of the most geographically isolated countries in the world, the USA are omnipresent in the news all over the world – especially in Western Europe. This omnipresence is grounded in the economic success of the USA over the last two centuries, which was mainly possible due to its unregulated market economy and the geographical isolation, which preserved the country’s territorial integrity. Further, the USA aggressively pursued military expansion into Latin America, in order to safeguard valuable resources, while threatening European powers not to intervene in Latin America under the infamous Monroe Doctrine. Consequently, the country had ideal conditions for economic growth. Fast forward to today, the USA are the biggest economy in the world by a large margin to the second place, which is the European Union, closely followed by China. Accordingly, it is only fair to give some weight to developments in that country. However, it is rather the military and cultural empire of the USA that disproportionately increases its power and with that our attention to them. With around 800 international military bases and the greatest export volume of cultural goods, such as music, movies, television and social media content and news, the USA were able to export their lifestyle to the world, which the world readily implemented in their societies (to varying degrees). Of course, this is normatively unacceptable and even less desirable, but the reality forces us to pay attention to this country, as it continuously influences world affairs. Therefore, it is legitimate to ask what election outcome would benefit the world most.
Returning to the elections, there are only two candidates to choose from and each of them represents one political party. Donald Trump represents the so-called Republican Party (short: RP), which is a rather authoritarian right-wing party. On the other side, Joe Biden represents the so-called Democratic Party (short: DP), which is a rather libertarian and less right-wing party. Traditionally, the DP is considered to be more open to welfare state elements of statesmanship and also favouring more economic regulation. However, the DP is also known for exerting more pressure internationally and proactively proliferating its norms and values across the world. On the other hand, the RP is strictly favouring an unregulated free market and their international political agenda is very focused on economic gains. Often, republican presidents even started large-scale economic wars against other states. Presidents from the DP, however, were more likely to engage in international military action, when they saw violations against their beliefs and normative interests. While both types of intervention are illegal and to be strongly condemned, the use of soft power and military power to promote a certain set of values is more problematic in the long-run. The reason for this is twofold: first, the promotion of values is generally an undemocratic practise. Democratic political systems, in their core, are based on the idea that a state should be formed around the cultural framework of values and norms of a society. Accordingly, a democratic state aims at forming a government that reflects and supports the population’s beliefs, mentality and vision. By promoting the own norms and values abroad, a state inherently attacks the most important part of any democratic system; eventually, it might develop into a dysfunctional democracy. Second, the means by which values are promoted abroad are also a key aspect. When a country intervenes in other states’ affairs by means of coercion, the reaction by the population of that country is always strong resistance. Often, it has the adverse effect that the society embraces their values more than before, in order to shield them from the invaders. However, the use of soft power aims at subtly altering the preferences of people – we can call that manipulation in micro-contexts. On the international level, we call the attempt to promote the own interests, norms and values by non-coercive means public diplomacy – or in a non-technical way: propaganda. Public diplomacy aims at altering the normative framework of another society by exporting cultural goods to that society, which starts to gradually adapt their behaviour in accordance with the consumed cultural goods.
Under the presidency of Donald Trump, the USA had a president who is very detached from politics and even further from military conflict. Although his rabble rhetoric triggered much discontent domestically, as well as internationally, he has a much less bloody track record than practically all of his predecessors. It might sound very strange, but Donald Trump might be one of the most peaceful presidents of that country, despite his racist and unprofessional diplomatic behaviour. On the contrary, his competitor, Joe Biden, is a cool and funny person that is sympathetic to much of the world even when he was the vice-president under the administration of former president Barack Obama (DP). Due to this, he is also experienced in politics – including warfare. Both of the Second Gulf War and the Syrian Civil War fell, in part, under the period of the Obama administration and in both conflicts the USA were mainly responsible not only for prolonging the conflicts, but also severing them. It was only after Donald Trump assumed power that the North American troops were largely withdrawn from the Middle East and the region was able to recover. However, this is not a deliberate act of high political understanding or skill, but rather because Donald Trump is simply not interested in international conflict – to him it does not make sense to make politics far away from home. From a domestic point of view, this is not a good development, because he gave up considerable power in the region. For the affected states, however, it was the beginning of productive solution-seeking. Further, due to the global unpopularity of Donald Trump, many societies were able to distance themselves from the American cultural influence. His Mexican wall project, Muslim ban and passive stance on the social segregation between blacks and whites naturally triggered much disgust around the world. The fact that he, nonetheless, enjoys so much support from many people in the USA further showed the world that the country is very different from what all the music, fashion, movies and the charming Obama administration suggested. Disillusioned by the American ideal, many societies had the chance to reorient themselves and reconsider their stance towards the North Americans. Again, from a domestic point of view, Donald Trump is destructive in many ways. However, he is responsible for the USA’s loss of international power, which also means that other states regained some power. It is legitimate to fear that under Joe Biden, the USA might become more active again on the international stage, which would, again, hamper other nations’ rise.
Usually, it does not really make a difference, who the president of the USA is, because this state shows a high consistency in invading other states, forcing them into unfavourable treaties, sanctioning them and generally oppressing them in many other ways. The difference between the two parties is that the DP is better organised in legitimising their international claims by tying them to universal human rights values. In the case of a DP victory in the 2020 elections, the world might experience a more active USA internationally, which would lead to greater political constraints. A potential re-election of Trump is likely to extent the status quo for another 4 years, which would give other states the chance to further regain political strength and reorganise themselves.