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Editorial: Biden must heal divisions at home, restore US's tattered alliances abroad

The 2020 U.S. presidential election was fiercely fought, but as the votes were tallied, it was Democrat Joe Biden who emerged on top, defeating Republican incumbent President Donald Trump. And on Nov. 7, President-elect Biden gave his victory speech.

    With Biden's win, the Trumpian politics of deepening divisions at home and spreading disorder internationally have been pushed aside. Trump's camp continues to pursue court action over the election results, but the suits are built on highly doubtful foundations. Now is the time to move forward with a peaceful transition of power.

    In his speech, Biden told the crowd, "I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify," calling for a national reconciliation transcending party loyalties, and the restoration of international trust in the United States. This is our wish, too, but the road ahead will be rough. It is too hasty to think that, with Biden set to replace Trump in the White House, tranquility will be returned to the U.S. and order restored to the global community.

    In fact, what emerged over the months of the campaign was the stark opposition between what we might call the "two Americas."

    After several Black people were killed by police in separate incidents, anti-racism protesters took to the streets across the country. And then these demonstrations were attacked by white members of far-right groups. The feeling of belonging to one race or another grew stronger, and enmity between whites and non-whites reached a fever pitch. Amid this febrile atmosphere, Trump sought to stoke chaos, while Biden spoke out against violence.

    In addition to the real-life confrontations on America's streets, battle lines were drawn and new kinds of conflict emerged in the world of social media. Hurtful partisan attacks were lobbied back and forth, while conspiracy theories festered and grew unchecked. Trump embraced and fed this trend, while Biden urged people not to get sucked into the maelstrom.

    Then came Election Day, the focal point of all the pro- and anti-Trump partisan fervor, and the American people came out in their record-setting millions to cast their ballots. In total, Trump and Biden raked in more than 70 million votes each, both surpassing the previous high set by former President Barack Obama. In short, the "two Americas" were cast in stark relief.

    Now, Biden must stitch these rents in American society back together.

    Racism is the United States' persistent evil, its roots set all the way back in the era of slavery and still worming into the present. It will not be easy to defeat it, but there should be ways to prevent racial confrontation from getting worse.

    One factor underlying this problem is the uneasiness some white Americans feel with the loss of their onetime dominant share of the U.S. electorate. Forty years ago, white votes made up some 90% of all votes cast in the country. Today, they make up about 60%.

    Policies to tackle poverty among non-whites and improve education are essential to eradicating racial discrimination in the U.S. But political action to smooth out mutual distrust is also indispensable.

    Another major problem confronting the U.S. is that President Trump has openly peddled the falsehood that the coronavirus pandemic is not that serious, and attached weight to resuming economic activities. The country is now recording some 100,000 new cases per day, a fact that we suspect has something to do with Trump's evident contempt for science throughout the crisis.

    Joe Biden will soon be taking charge of this tragic state of affairs, and it will be his responsibility to marshal scientific knowledge to put together policies that will protect the lives and health of Americans.

    On a related issue, the pandemic has dealt a crippling blow to the U.S. economy. Biden is said to be preparing a major budget package to boost industry and address unemployment. It is very important to prevent the current crisis from widening economic disparity further.

    In the international sphere, the Trump administration yanked the U.S. out of both the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization (WHO) -- sadly just two examples of the outgoing president's wrecking ball approach to global affairs.

    In his Nov. 7 speech, Biden stated, "I believe at our best America is a beacon for the globe." As a first step to restoring international cooperation, we hope to see Biden follow through on his recent promise to take the U.S. back into the Paris Agreement on his first day in office.

    Meanwhile, perhaps the most immediate diplomatic problem confronting the Biden administration when it takes office will be the U.S.-China row. The new president will have to manage bilateral tensions, and exercise wisdom to avoid letting the relationship slide into a "new Cold War."

    And then there are America's allies, which Trump treated almost like enemies, sowing distrust especially among the U.S.'s European friends. Here, Japan should do its part to assist Biden in his stated desire to restore the alliance structure and rally the world's democracies. However, there is a debate to be had over exactly how deeply the U.S. should get involved in international problems. For example, the "war on terror" will have been going on for 20 years come 2021. At home, there is growing skepticism of U.S. interventionism.

    As Barack Obama's former vice president, Biden is expected to put the U.S. back on the path his former boss set of diminishing the U.S. role while valuing international cooperation.

    The source of American strength is diversity and resilience. By capitalizing on the blend of ethnicities and cultures that make up the United States, the country has drawn back from the edge of crisis. That soft power and internal dynamism is what has propelled the U.S. to global superpower status.

    Standing before that crowd of jubilant supporters on Nov. 7 as a woman, a Black person and an Asian person, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris declared that the United States "is a country of possibilities" -- words that gave her country courage.

    The tasks ahead -- to heal a nation riven by deepening social divides and rally a drifting world -- will be difficult. If Biden fails, however, then it seems likely that the only future in store for the United States will be one of steadily declining power and influence.

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