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US Elections, Trump vs Biden: Impact on the world and the PH

The most consequential election, perhaps, in the post-World War 2 era, the November 3 race for the American presidency will likely redefine the United States and the global order that Americans instituted at the end of the last war.

Domestic implications

To the domestic audience, racial and income inequality, Obamacare, immigration and the Mexican Wall controversy and the Covid-19 debacle are all divisive issues marking the Trump presidency.  Trump is a polarizing president and people either support him or hate him.  This election is about Trump.

From left: US President Donald Trump, Democratic candidate Joe Biden and President Rodrigo Duterte.

A Trump victory means that his brand of “America First” will not only continue but be reinforced.  A Biden victory means a reversion to neo-liberalism that has defined the US since the end of World War 2.  How this will evolve in the post-Covid-19 environment, however, and under a huge debt overhang and amid calls for more government intervention to address social and economic inequality issues, remains unknown.  America faces a new social contract problem.
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The historic early voter turnout is a testament to the anxiety of American voters.  As of October 20, 34 million voters had voted by in-person early voting or by mail. The figure was almost six times that of the comparative period in the 2016 presidential election and 24.5 percent of the more than 136 million votes cast in the 2016 election.  The Americans’ rush to vote is leading election experts to predict that a record 150 million votes might be cast and turnout rates could be higher than in any presidential election since 1908.  Many observers expect this election to shatter many records.

The mail-in voting accounted for around 70 percent of early votes and in-person around 30 percent. Figures on October 20 estimated that registered Democrats were 54.4 percent against registered Republicans’ 23.6 percent, with the rest 21.5 percent unaffiliated.  For in-person voting, the ratios were 43.3 percent, 35.4 percent and 21.3 percent, respectively.  Americans voters, however, might not vote along party lines, and it is too early to predict the outcome.  Heavy early voting means the survey lead that Biden enjoys currently is more likely to translate to actual voting advantages and an election day voter turnover surprise that tilts the result is less likely now, although as we’ve seen in past, politics especially with Trump can surprise.  Surveys show that as much as 65 percent of American voters are worried that the high percentage of early voting could provoke some disgruntled voters facing imminent loss of their favorite candidate to resort to court injunction to stop vote counting on election day by claiming fraud.  A nastier replay in many states of the delay in getting election results, aka the 2000 Bush-Gore Florida count, may occur.

Global implications

Though Trump started dismantling the multilateral setup when he assumed office in 2017, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Paris climate accord that the US put up and carefully nurtured for many years, his transactional style of governance leaves people still hoping for a return to more consensual global agenda discussion if he returns for a second term.  The hope was largely dashed, however, when he blamed China for the havoc that the Covid-19 pandemic allegedly created for the US and served notice to get out of the World Health Organization (WHO).  Together with the unilateral rejection lately of the United Nations’ decision to end sanctions on Iran, many of Trump’s international relation policies were against international consensus, including that of allies.

The leading role that the US assumed in getting out of all post-war crises is shattered this time amid the Covid-19 pandemic.  If Trump is reelected, whether he will intensify his unilateral approach to international problems and dump other multilateral platforms, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), are burning issues on other countries’ minds.  Of course, whether he will turn the containment against China into a hot war over the Taiwan issue is another matter that concerns Asian countries.

If Biden is elected, how will he redefine the future US role in global affairs? How will he work with allies, and compete against rivals such as the rising China? These are also hanging on everyone’s mind.

Philippine implications 

The American influence on the country operates on several layers, the most important of which is the psychologically close affiliation of the Filipinos to the US.  It is well known that the trust level of the Filipinos in the US consistently ranks among the highest in the world.  This election takes on increasing significance as the Philippines needs a benign regional geopolitical environment to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and face its own presidential election in 2022.

The damage to the Philippine economy from Covid-19 is extensive.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that the country’s economy is expected to contract by 8.3 percent in 2020 and forecast to expand 7.4 percent in 2021. The contraction number in 2020 is almost certain now but the rebound in 2021 is still subject to many unknowns, and calls for steady government leadership. A benign international environment is helpful for the growth scenario, and the current China-US geopolitical rivalry is posing the greatest challenge in the case of the Philippines, as is the case for wider-Asia development.  A Trump victory will pose problems for the country, as the Philippines will be under increasing pressure to take sides in the rivalry between the two giants. The country might not be able to navigate the neutral path based on the best interests of the country, which allows it to tap the opportunities that both sides offer.  In the case of a Biden term, chances of a more subdued belligerence or confrontation will allow the Philippines to focus on economic recovery.

Although President Duterte enjoyed unprecedented public support of 91 percent in the latest poll, despite the flood of negative news that lacks perspectives, the ongoing issues of Covid recovery, corruption and extra-judicial means of fighting drug abuse will be likely concerns in the 2022 election.  Opposition and administration candidates are going to take opposite stands and the position taken by a reelected Trump or a newly elected Biden will also affect Philippine politics in the 2022 election.

Dr. Henry Chan is an internationally recognized development economist based in Singapore. He is also a senior visiting research fellow at the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace and adjunct research fellow at the Integrated Development Studies Institute (IDSI). His primary research interest includes global economic development, Asean-China relations and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

New Worlds by IDSI (Integrated Development Studies Institute) aims to present frameworks based on a balance of economic theory, historical realities, ground success in real business and communities and attempt for common good, culture and spirituality. We welcome logical feedback and possibly working together with compatible frameworks (idsicenter@gmail.com).

**Also published in: https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/10/25/opinion/columnists/us-elections-trump-vs-biden-impact-on-the-world-and-the-ph/785388/

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