ne question hung over the presidency of Donald Trump, from his arrival at the White House four years ago to his reluctant departure this week: did his unexpected election represent a last cry of pain from largely white, blue-collar American voters who had found themselves on the wrong side of history? Or was he, and all he stood for – the protectionism, the isolationism, the transactionalism and the rest – pointing towards the future of the United States?
Many will see the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president as the answer to that question. Everything about him and his vice president, Kamala Harris – their first speeches, their tone, their comportment – says that this team is the essence of non-Trump. Biden spoke about ending what he called the country’s “uncivil war”; the recurrent theme was “together”.
Abroad, he promised to restore “broken alliances”. From now on there is to be a new sense of unity, common purpose, at home and beyond US shores. Among his first acts were the return of the US to the Paris Agreement on the climate crisis and an end to the Trump-era restrictions on immigration from a number of Muslim-majority countries.