The 2020 US Presidential Election is gaining much attention, with the debate being held between a continuance of the status quo or a new beginning with the Biden Administration. Given the situation back in the US, the decisions of political leaders are more critical than ever. To discuss the potential outcomes of the 2020 Presidential Election, Professor Ellen Laipson from the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University took part in a webinar series with the Jeju Peace Institute, focusing on foreign policy introduced by the Biden campaign.
Professor Laipson’s presentation begins by viewing Biden as a former liberal internationalist with years of working in foreign policy development. Biden’s prime years were in the era of the Cold War and post-Cold War, and he had been part of many major decisions of the US intervening in wars in the Balkans and the Middle East. During those years, Biden was part of the administrations that supported state-building and strong democracy promotion. Once a liberal internationalist himself, he had been a strong believer in American global leadership and worked to advocate for human rights and non-proliferation. However, especially after the intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has shifted his diplomatic approach to become less involved in state intervention and lean toward building alliances through soft power. Though he still upholds the values of human rights and democratization, he may be more selective in choosing which conflicts the US would be involved in. Once again, his diplomatic preference is reflected in his campaign goals of reducing the defense budget while continuing foreign aid and humanitarian assistance. As for diplomatic relations with China, Biden intends to demonstrate that the US will hold its ground as a Pacific power while lessening tensions so that the US is no longer a perceived threat to China. He aims to restore credibility with allies particularly in Asia and improve global cooperation on issues regarding climate, health, and cybersecurity.
Professor Laipson pinpoints liabilities considering his age, energy level, and speaking skills, which might not be appealing to voters in their 20s and 30s, who make up a third of the electorate. Moreover, based on over 50 years of experience in policymaking, overconfidence may hinder him from being susceptible to new policy recommendations. Despite these drawbacks, Joe Biden does have a clear distinction in what he can bring to the table as a candidate compared to the current president.
Professor Laipson stressed multiple times that Biden had a strong end in soft skills, which could become a critical tool in winning votes. She stated, “the enthusiasm would grow if you were reminded that he is a warm-hearted guy who relates well to working-class people and relates well to middle-class people.” In times of protests for African American rights and against police brutality, along with millions being discouraged by the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Biden would attract the attention of the American population with his competency and charms. Regardless of the pandemic inhibiting him from showing his strong side, Biden’s experience in a wide spectrum of public and foreign policy may secure the votes of many citizens.
Given the domestic crisis happening in the United States, the 2020 US presidential election bears more meaning in selecting the administration that can work out to create a safer environment for US citizens. While Biden and Trump relate in the descriptions of age and controversies, Biden brings different qualities such as experience and communication skills. Through the careful and communicative approach of the Biden Administration, the future of US domestic and foreign policies is expected to be very different from the status quo. Thus, given the stark difference, voters stand at crossroads.
Seihoon Lee is a sophomore majoring in Business with a minor in Global Affairs. His primary interest is geopolitics, focusing on the geopolitical factors that affect national security strategies. As a student fellow of CSPS Korea, he aspires to develop analytical skills and aquire in-depth knowledge of international security issues.
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