Isaac Kfir, Advisory Board, International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law and Adjunct Professor, Charles Sturt University
One reason for the growing divisions is that Americans increasingly self-segregate. They live in communities that reinforce their political, social, religious, and philosophical views, which facilitates the growth of visceral political anger. Consequently, everything is political and personal, and compromises are virtually impossible.
The election and its result highlighted that millions of Americans, despite plenty of factual evidence to the contrary, hold views not based on empirical evidence. Millions believe that the 2020 election was neither free nor fair and that Democrats support globalist cabals, child-trafficking and paedophilia rings, culminating in last week’s storming of the Capitol Building to try to stop Congress certifying the result
Tribalism In Covid-19 Response
The tribalism is most visible in the way many Americans have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with 76% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents asserting that the US had done a good job in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, even though the virus continues to run rampant across the country. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, around 29% of Americans believe Covid-19 is an intentional bioweapon, while others believe Bill Gates had planned the pandemic or that 5G technology is responsible for the outbreak.
Without tackling the infodemic, a Biden administration would struggle because proponents of disinformation (the intentional spreading of untruths) and adherents of misinformation (belief in untruth) have increasingly moved from the fringe to the center.
A study from the Cornell Alliance for Science identified US President Donald Trump as the world’s biggest disseminator of Covid-19 misinformation. It is therefore unsurprising that so many Americans question, not only the root of the pandemic, but how to combat it.
Soon after being declared winner, President-elect Joe Biden announced the establishment of a Covid-19 advisory board composed of public health experts, whose role would be to aid in coordinating the response to the pandemic. However, relying on science is problematic as hyper-politicization has meant that many Americans mistrust scientific findings and believe they are biased.
Apart from a highly partisan Congress which is likely to stall many of Biden’s policies, the administration would also need to grapple with Trump’s judicial legacy. Trump not only appointed three Supreme Court justices, thus altering the political leaning of the court, but he reversed the trend of promoting diversity. For example, in 1977, the judiciary was predominantly white and male, but successive presidents worked hard to bring forth minorities onto the bench to reflect the true nature of American society. Trump’s nominees could end up slowing down or torpedoing an ambitious, reformist agenda. Challenging the legitimacy of the courts would only add to the growing division, especially as studies indicate that over 60% of Americans have faith in the judicial branch.
Biden’s principal task should be to use the White House pulpit to speak to people, connect with them and persuade them to abandon their hyper-partisanship. He should reject Trump’s usage of executive orders and regulatory discretion, particularly when things will get tough, such as the Senate refusing to confirm his nominees. As an experienced bridge-builder, he must bring people to the Oval Office to persuade them to support empirically-sound policies and remind his opponents that he secured the support of over 80 million Americans.
Biden Suited To Bridge Political Gap
Biden is uniquely suited to address many of these challenges. Firstly, his age may be an advantage — he has lived through many changes, and he can rely on those experiences as he reaches out to people. Secondly, he has blue-collar roots, and the fact that he did not attend an Ivy League university would appeal to many Americans suspicious of elites. And finally, his religious commitment gives him a unique ability to speak to many of Trump’s religious supporters — he just needs to find the tone.
The Biden administration will also face many demands from Progressives claiming that they worked very hard to get Biden elected. They will argue, with merit, that having a moderate agenda — one designed to win over moderate Republicans and Independents — is a betrayal. However, Biden has stated that his goal is to heal America and to bring about an element of stability. To pacify Progressives, he must emphasize that he is overseeing a transitional administration designed to restore civility and unity and lay the foundation for a Kamala Harris presidential run.
Reversing the infodemic would take time, as it calls for healing divisions and encouraging many Americans to abandon many strongly-held ideas, which requires empathy. Biden has the skills to bring about positive change, and for the sake of many Americans and the world, we hope that he succeeds.
European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.