Biden and Harris Global Responsibility by Kaushik Basu
One of the most damaging consequences of Donald Trump’s presidency has been America’s loss of global stature. If the Democrats triumph in November, the new president and vice-president must adopt an internationalist mindset and seek to build a better future for all mankind.
ITHACA – Neither Joe Biden nor Kamala Harris was my first choice among contenders for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. But when Biden, then the party’s alleged candidate, announced earlier this month that Senator Harris would be his running mate in the vice-presidency, it felt like a breath of fresh air.
Speakers at the recently concluded Democratic National Convention – including some Republicans like former Ohio Governor John Kasich – have emphasized the importance of decency and empathy in politics. And in his inspiring acceptance speech, Biden emphasized the need for America to be “once again a light to the world.” Listening to these words, I felt a surge of hope.
If Biden and Harris win in November, they’ll introduce some big policy initiatives. They will improve America’s embarrassing healthcare system, which keeps much of the population from cutting-edge medical research and the world’s best healthcare facilities. They will try to remedy the worsening conditions facing the American working class and restore some American efforts to fight climate change. But I don’t think they’ll push for the kind of sweeping reforms someone like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders would have attempted.
However, there are two reasons for hope. First, Biden and Harris are more likely to win the election than more radical Democratic candidates would have been. Second, they will strengthen the institutions that previously made America strong and restore its leadership in the world. This will be crucial: while much has been written about what Biden and Harris should do for America, they also have a global responsibility.
One of the most damaging consequences of Donald Trump’s presidency has been America’s loss of international stature. It had a huge negative impact, spawning populism and authoritarianism around the world.
To be sure, America’s record on global engagement is not without flaws. In the 1960s and early 1970s, for example, he was on the wrong side of history on several occasions – including continuing the Vietnam War, tacitly supporting the overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende, and attempting to thwart the independence of Bangladesh.
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Fortunately, this coldly “realistic” US foreign policy has slowly given way to a policy with some moral compass and global concern. The president who deserves the most credit for this change is Jimmy Carter. Although low-key and not good at politics, Carter had rare courage – evident in his moving 2018 interview with The late show‘s Stephen Colbert – be prepared to lose for a moral cause.
In today’s globalized world, we must recognize that all human beings, and not just all co-nationals, are born equal. Hyper-nationalism is not only bad economically, it is also morally bad. I have no doubt that a time will come when we will consider hyper-nationalism – the belief that one’s countrymen are special and more deserving than others – as we see racism or caste systems today.
Because we currently live in a world of nation states, nationalism is inevitable at this time. But we need leaders who can pioneer an international mindset and help build a better future for all mankind, including the poor and destitute wherever they live. This is the great responsibility that Biden and Harris must shoulder as they seek to restore the global leadership that America has withdrawn under Trump.
On internationalism, Biden and Harris may wish to heed the thoughts of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who has spoken of these values more eloquently than perhaps any other leader. Nehru fought for the independence of India, in which nationalism was obviously a driving force. But he was aware that we must fight for a world in which human identity takes precedence over racial, religious and national identity.
Nehru made his position clear in a remarkable 1953 letter to senior Indian ministers. “The feeling of nationalism is an enlargement and enlargement experience for the individual or the nation,” he wrote. “More particularly, when a country is under foreign domination, nationalism is a strengthening and unifying force. But, a stage comes where she might well have a shrinking influence […]. “
This stage comes, Nehru believed, because “Every people suffers from the strange illusion that they are the chosen one and better than all the others. When they become strong and powerful, they try to impose themselves and impose themselves on others ”, but ultimately“ overtake themselves, stumble and fall ”.
Nehru concluded with a warning to his newly independent country. “We in India need to be especially careful about this because of our tradition of caste and separatism. We tend to divide into separate groups and forget about the larger unity.
I will leave it to Biden and Harris to substitute the United States for India and learn the lesson they can. And I will not lose hope that they will assert America’s global responsibility and rekindle her leadership role, using it to advance the interests of all mankind.