New fault-lines to the fore in US presidential race : The Tribune India

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New fault-lines to the fore in US presidential race

A greater concern for the world is the impact of a changing of the guard on the US foreign policy.

New fault-lines to the fore in US presidential race

2024 polls: A change in the US administration will impact high-skilled immigration. Reuters



Luv Puri

Journalist And Author

THE support for former President Donald Trump in the Iowa caucus and within the Republican Party establishment has created a buzz about a what-if scenario: the return of the Trump era and the concomitant unpredictability in the governance of a country that accounts for a quarter of the global economy.

In the polarised US polity, the congressional districts in some of the swing/battleground states of the 2016 and 2020 elections, such as Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, may decide the 2024 presidential contest. The suburban and rural parts remain conservative and racially homogenised — mostly white. New political, social and economic fault-lines are being drawn within the states, and this may fuel fresh social and ideological tensions, even as Florida has remained a battleground state since the 2000 elections.

For the outside world, there will be two main consequential and immediate outcomes that are shaped by any change in the US administration, as evidenced during the Trump years. One is the impact on high-skilled immigration as US tech enterprises draw talent from across the world, particularly from India. At least 70 per cent of the H1-B visas are bagged by Indians every year, the bulk of them by software engineers and, now, artificial intelligence professionals. Little discussed is the perceived sense of insecurity amid heightened white nationalism that borders on racism, particularly for the high-skilled people from Asian countries. The Trump years demonstrated that safety as a factor to migrate or not became important for high-skilled migrants, particularly from non-European countries.

Even in arguably the most cosmopolitan city in the world like New York, with nearly half of the population being foreign-born, the Police Benevolent Association, NYC’s largest police union, reportedly “broke with a longstanding tradition of not endorsing presidential candidates and had thrown its support behind President Trump in the 2020 elections, as many officers viewed him as more of an ally to their pro-police ‘Blue Lives Matter’ movement than Joe Biden.”

A greater concern for the world is the impact of a changing of the guard on the US foreign policy. The US is the pre-eminent power in the international system as its support or withdrawal of support on global issues is consequential. Take, for instance, the challenge of climate change. In the 2017 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Jane Mayer illustrates how Charles and David Koch, the enormously rich proprietors of an oil company based in Kansas, laid the foundations for conservative movements that were anti-government and opposed climate change. The funding of various movements, think tanks and newspapers inadvertently created a fertile landscape for Trump to exploit in the 2016 elections. It wasn’t a surprise when he decided to formally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement in June 2017.

Also, there are peace and security issues that are shaped by the US directly or indirectly. There are three foreign policy domains that have dominated Biden’s presidency — Ukraine, West Asia and China. All three affect every corner of the world, including India, though the US-India bilateral engagement will essentially retain the momentum despite any change. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has given the European Union (EU) a renewed sense of purpose. Russia’s perceived threat is now internalised by eastern European Baltic states, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were earlier part of the Soviet Union, and by other eastern European countries like Poland, Romania and Moldova. This has instilled a pan-continental unity that no event has catalysed since 1993, the year of the EU's foundation. Recent developments have also turned the spotlight within the US on European security. Since the February 2022 invasion, more than $75 billion in assistance to Ukraine, including humanitarian, financial and military support, has reportedly been given by the US. Trump's current stance on the US financial support to Ukraine is not clear. In fact, during his presidency, he had angered EU allies with his repeated criticism of European countries for not commensurately funding the NATO.

West Asia has witnessed greater instability after the Hamas attacks and the consequent Gaza assault by Israel. Among the 19 September 11 attackers, 15 were from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and they cited the purported partial US role in West Asia, including the Israel-Palestine conflict, as the reason for carrying out the suicide attacks. The US establishment doesn’t want to give fresh ammunition to the violent extremists working against it. This explains repeated words of caution by Biden to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him not to be blinded by rage. In 2017, then President Trump had decided that the US would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and this was seen as a reckless move as it may directly play into the hands of extremists who slam the US for being pro-Israel. Then, there are other tensions, such as with Iran and its alleged support to proxies like the Houthis in Yemen that are threatening Red Sea’s shipping lanes. This requires a calibrated and coordinated approach, with allies anchored in patience and wisdom that was clearly lacking in President Trump.

Finally, another Trump term has the potential to reconfigure the Asia-Pacific security calculus. China’s multi-dimensional challenge had been at the heart of President Biden's Asian engagement. Biden continued with Trump’s import tariffs on China. It is the US strategy to meet the challenge of China’s military projection that may have a greater impact with a change in the US administration. For instance, China has never given up the use of force as an option to bring Taiwan under its control. On the other hand, the US strategic ambivalence over defending the island if it were attacked has been its consistent position. In the recent Taiwanese presidential elections, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which invokes China’s ire for its nationalist stance, retained power. A Trump term may spur Beijing to invade Taiwan and exacerbate China’s perennial tensions with Japan, South Korea and even India.

#Donald Trump


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