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Joe Biden is President, but America’s democracy is under immense stress



A bird’s eye view of Washington, and America’s democracy seems normal

In America, democracy seems to have returned to normal. Joe Biden is president.  Kamala Harris is vice president and Biden’s Cabinet is in place.  He has sent a budget to the Congress.  His emergency pandemic control and economic stimulus program became law.  Vaccinations will soon reach 70 per cent of Americans and the country is open. 

Summer is coming.  The new president’s approval rating is close to 60 per cent.  The press secretary briefs the media every weekday; the press is not referred to as “the enemy of the people.”  Biden and Harris get an intelligence briefing every day.  

When a crisis erupts, as it did in Israel and Gaza two weeks ago, the president attends to it

A ceasefire is agreed on, and is in place.  The Secretary of State visits the region and promotes peace.

“We could be at the end of a major era in Israeli politics”

A normal presidency, yes?  The way it was before Trump, yes?

But, at ground level, there are rifts, fissures, earthquakes.  Hyperpartisanship is at an all-time high.  No Republicans voted for the relief package – although several are claiming credit for what’s in it when they talk to their voters. 

Bipartisan talks on a $2 trillion infrastructure package are close to collapse.  The Senate requires a supermajority of 60 votes to do business, and there are not 10 Republican votes to join with the Senate’s 50 Democrats  to promote voting rights, or gun control, or policing reform, or immigration reform.

Furthermore, on a fundamentally important issue (establishing a special independent commission to examine and report on the insurrection that threatened America’s democracy) there were not 60 votes in the Senate to get it underway.  As was he case with 9/11, the country needs, it deserves, a full examination of the forces unleashed by President Trump that led to that terrible day, and for the country to come to a reckoning with the domestic terrorism threat to America’s democracy.

Underneath these partisan forces in Washington is a political landscape riven with division


70 per cent of Republicans believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.  50 per cent of Republicans also believe Trump is the legitimate president – and Biden is not.

Those sentiments have triggered politicised  reviews and audits in several states of last November’s vote, and moves in several states, from Georgia to Arizona to Florida and Texas, to enact new laws that make voting much harder, and to depress voter turnout. 

It does not matter if Trump carried states like Texas and Florida; the legislatures there are passing new laws to restrict the ability to vote.

Donald Trump remains the dominant force in the Republican Party. 

Donald Trump served as the 45th president of the United States from 2017 to 2021.

Members of Congress who question his leadership and what he does are purged from power.  The famous Trump base is intact, agitated and loyal to him.  And fear of those voters, and the threat they pose to any Republican in elected office who dares to break with Trump,  is preventing Republicans in Congress from working with Joe Biden and his program of rebuilding the country.


This is a difficult moment.  The country is a long way from healing.  How successful Biden will be as president is uncertain.  How empowered the Trump forces will remain is very much in play.  

Currently, at stake are not only the prospects for  domestic tranquility and steady progress towards a more perfect union, but also America’s reputation in a world dominated more and more by the forces of authoritarianism.

And the whole world is watching.

Read more by Bruce Wolpe here.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Margaret Vickers

    June 1, 2021 at 8:58 am

    Excellent overview Bruce. Deeply worrying, but current polls show only 25% of voters are Republican, of these 40% agree Biden is President, so crunching the data the proportion comprising Trumps base is about 15% (ref, Heather Cox R).

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Global Politics

China challenges Australia anti-dumping measures at WTO



China has challenged Australia’s anti-dumping measures at the World Trade Organisation.

The anti-dumping measures affect Chinese exports of train components, wind turbines, and stainless steel sinks.

China hopes Australia can adopt concrete measures so that bilateral trade can return to a normal track, ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters at a news conference.

More to come.

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Global Politics

Why Singaporeans may have to learn to live with COVID-19



Singapore is drawing up a road map to transit to a “new normal”, where COVID-19 is likely endemic.

Singapore’s government believes COVID-19 may never go away.

But ministers leading the city-state’s pandemic response say the good news is that it is possible to live normally with the virus in our midst.

Three key ministers have written an opinion piece in The Straits Times, outlining what they believe life will look like in a “new-normal” where COVID-19 is still around but can be controlled through mass vaccination.

The ministers, who lead the city-state’s pandemic task force, say they hope COVID-19 will become like influenza.

They haver pointed out that people carry on with their daily activities during the flu season, take simple precautions or get an annual flu jab.

The ministers want to work towards a similar outcome for Covid-19.

“We can’t eradicate it, but we can turn the pandemic into something much less threatening, like influenza, hand, foot and mouth disease, or chickenpox, and get on with our lives.”

Rapid mass vaccination will be key

The ministers say “we are on track” to have two-thirds of the population vaccinated with at least their first dose by early July.

The next vaccine milestone will be to have at least two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated by National Day on August 9, supply permitting.

The ministers say they are working to bring forward the delivery of vaccines and to speed up the process.

The new-normal

It’s hoped that in the future, when someone gets COVID in Singapore, the response can be very different from now.

And instead of monitoring Covid-19 infection numbers every day, the focus will be on the outcomes, such as how many people are getting sick.

The government says in this new-normal, large gatherings can resume, businesses will have certainty that their operations will not be disrupted, and vaccinated travellers can be exempted from quarantine

But the ministers added a note of caution:

“The battle against Covid-19 will continue to be fraught with uncertainty.”

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Global Politics

Europe’s big plan to tackle “nightmare” cyber-attacks



The EU will soon build a Joint Cyber Unit to tackle large scale cyber-attacks

Recent ransomware attacks on critical services in Ireland and on the Colonial pipeline in the US have promoted the move to take cybercrime more seriously.

The EU says cyber-attacks are a national security threat, with reported incidents in Europe rising to almost 1,000 last year.

A dedicated team of multi-national cyber-experts will be deployed to European countries during serious attacks.

A Commission spokesman said that “advanced and coordinated responses in the field of cybersecurity have become increasingly necessary, as cyberattacks grow in number, scale, and consequences, impacting heavily our security”.

Under the Commission’s proposals, it would “tackle the rising number of serious cyber incidents impacting public services, as well as the life of businesses and citizens across the European Union”.

EU vice-president said last month’s hack on US fuel supplies was ‘the “nightmare scenario that we have to prepare against”.

The attack sent major disruptions to the United States fuel supply, with gas stations running out of supply and being forced to shut down.

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