Even if Joe Biden wins the election, he can't quell the forces that spurred Trumpism
. The Democratic presidential nominee has signaled he would rejoin the Paris climate accord, seek to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, give dictators the cold shoulder, treat allies with respect instead of berating them and build a global coalition to counter China's rise. But while Air Force One is nice and all, a 78-year-old President might not be jetting around the world that much.
Biden's first year in office would be devoted to rescuing the country and the economy from the pandemic. Big foreign policy bets would be off: Americans don't want to get sucked into the world's problems anymore. There's no chance a big trade deal like the Obama-era Trans-Pacific Partnership — a potential counter to China that was dumped by President Donald Trump — could get through the US Congress. And America seems set into a long-term confrontation with Beijing whoever lives in the White House.
The US can't just say it's back, as if Trump never happened. Foreign envoys in Washington caution that the political dislocation that led to his rise could deliver another nationalist president in four years. So why would adversaries like Iran do more deals when the US could just walk out again?
US competitors have been busy while Americans were distracted by morning tweet storms, impeachment and a President's musings on injecting disinfectant. China has consolidated its Asian power base and is flexing its weight globally. The European Union is beginning to envision a world not guaranteed by US power. And Russia will make mischief wherever it can.
A Biden presidency might offer more strategic stability and less disruption -- and a steadier hand on the nuclear trigger. But don't expect dominant global leadership in a splintering world.