12 Nov 2020

Biden Can Restore Balance for Democracies


This piece is part of a global memo produced by the Council of Councils and available to read in full here.


Democracy has been in retreat in many parts of the world. Reports by Freedom House and other watchdog groups show a decline of democratic freedoms for fourteen straight years and a surge in the number of elected authoritarians. The combination of populism and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the decline of the post–World War II world order. A Biden presidency will help restore a balance of powers and could help reboot globalization.

Despite many doubts about the U.S. election process, legal challenges, and runoffs that remain, U.S. democracy has survived its experiment with protofascism and will become stronger in the next four years. This is a boon for democratic forces worldwide, especially in Europe. Recent developments have shown that democratically elected leaders will try to use majoritarian rule to curb freedoms, overstep constitutional limits, protect the interests of their cronies, and recycle themselves through seemingly free and fair elections. Even if the Biden presidency is slowed by radical conservatism, it is expected to strike up alliances to shore up America’s international role and pressure illiberal and undemocratic leadership in other countries. This is good news for the European Union and its drive to stop the corrosive effects of authoritarian tendencies within the bloc and strengthen rule-of-law mechanisms at the supranational level.

At the same time, Europeans should not kid themselves into believing transatlantic relations will return to the status quo ante. In all but name, the rallying cry of America First is here to stay. Biden has vowed to prioritize investment in U.S. green energy, childcare, education, and infrastructure over any new trade deals. He has also called for expanded Buy American provisions in federal procurement, which has long been an irritant in trade relations with the EU. A Biden presidency will seek to restore America’s status as a constructive presence within multilateral organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and World Health Organization (WHO). That may go a long way toward restoring faith in some of the pillars of the world order that have been battered by the Donald J. Trump administration’s unabashed unilateralism.