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The Biden Formula

Summary:
Just as US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to “build back better” to promote economic recovery, America also urgently needs to reinvent its international role. Doing this successfully will require an empathetic leader like Biden, who has always taken pride in his ability to navigate sensitive issues. MADRID – There is an eternal debate about how much leadership and personality matter in international relations. But after the turbulence of the last four years, there can no longer be any doubt that a lot depends on who is at the helm, particularly in the United States. Moreover, as Harvard’s Joseph S. Nye convincingly argues – and contrary to what skeptics believe – foreign policy is not devoid of moral

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Just as US President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to “build back better” to promote economic recovery, America also urgently needs to reinvent its international role. Doing this successfully will require an empathetic leader like Biden, who has always taken pride in his ability to navigate sensitive issues.

MADRID – There is an eternal debate about how much leadership and personality matter in international relations. But after the turbulence of the last four years, there can no longer be any doubt that a lot depends on who is at the helm, particularly in the United States. Moreover, as Harvard’s Joseph S. Nye convincingly argues – and contrary to what skeptics believe – foreign policy is not devoid of moral considerations. For both these reasons, the election of Joe Biden as America’s next president is excellent news for the world.

The American people will, of course, benefit most directly from this turn of events. With his approachable disposition and willingness to engage in dialogue, Biden has devoted his long political career to the essential labor of forging consensus between Democrats and Republicans. Progressives have not always welcomed his flexibility, and his career has not been without blunders. But it is precisely Biden’s flexibility that has allowed him to recover from his mistakes and adapt to the times.

The best example of this is his sensible choice of Kamala Harris as his vice president, despite their sharp clashes during the Democratic primaries. Harris’s ability to reach out to younger generations will turn into a great asset for the Biden administration.

Progressives should also recognize that Biden’s centrist reputation may help him to formulate in a palatable way the profound structural reforms that America needs. In the 1960s, another centrist Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson, set in motion one of the most forward-looking social reform agendas in US history.

Biden’s problem is that, unlike Johnson, he may well face strong congressional opposition. The Democrats will struggle to win the two run-off votes in Georgia on January 5 that will determine control of the Senate, and the election this month left them with only

Javier Solana
President of @ESADEgeo - Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics. Distinguished Fellow at @BrookingsInst.

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