As the Democratic coronation ceremony in Wisconsin gently places the world’s heaviest crown on Joe Biden’s confused napper, why should we in Scotland care? Even if you are not won to the internationalist conception that what happens anywhere impacts you here, such that a row in the Bhutanese royal household matters in East Kilbride, you must still accept that what happens in the world’s most powerful state has meaning to us in the provinces of empire.
It is not true that wherever the moods of US politics go, we invariably follow: the US response to the 2008 economic meltdown was not the harsh austerity experienced in the UK (it wasn’t a boon to the US working class either). Boris Johnson is not really ‘Britain Trump’ as the presidential incumbent asserts. Yet, we do share a language, some customs, and an ideological sinew that stretches the Atlantic – including among our elites and policy makers.
We often discuss US influence in military and hard power terms – with very good reason. But we can asses the meaning of the US election for Brits and Scots on many registers. What follows are just two.
During the convention, Ted Kaufman, a long-time Biden associate and now the chief of his ‘transition team’ that to craft a new administration after November, gave and interview to journalists in which he predicted a harsh regime under Biden:
“Basically when we get in the pantry is going to be bear. I mean, when you see what Trump’s done to the deficit – forget Covid-19 – all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts. So we are going to be limited. This is going to be very difficult. This is going to be a very difficult administration and one of the things are [sic], we are going to have limited funds to do what we are gonna do.”
As though enough apologies for future disappointments hadn’t been made already, he went on: “When you actually get into the Whitehouse, we are going to be depending on Republicans in the senate.”
Democratic voters are being set-up for a beating. If Trump were canny, and he has shown he can be for all the wild theatrics and bumbling press appearances, he would campaign on a state-assistance ticket. As with the promises he made to working class citizens in 2016, pledges on this basis wouldn’t be worth the carbon dioxide they were bloviated with.
Assuming he loses (and the Democrats are providing every appearance of hubris) we now have a clearer picture of the austerian regime to which US citizens, many millions of them voting in the simple desire to have Trump behind them, will be subjected. And that will have an influence on how the British ruling elite decide to meet the crisis here.
There is another influence a Biden victory would have, peculiar to Scotland.
A Democrat administration would be more hostile to Brexit, and more willing to work with Brussels to squeeze the UK in Brexit negotiations. This could create and avenue for opposition forces in the UK, above all Starmer’s Labour and the SNP. Therefore, it is at least possible that the SNP will see itself as part of this new liberal transatlantic alliance, providing yet another opportunity to make friends in the ‘international community’ – a long term project of the party.
Perhaps events in Wisconsin really will be felt in East Kilbride.