News ID: 319616
Published: 0338 GMT January 23, 2022

Polarized American society warrants caution of another civil war

Polarized American society warrants caution of another civil war

An annual assessment might be in order now that the world has seen one year of Biden in the White House. How has he fared domestically and globally? What are the challenges ahead of him? To answer these questions, Iran Daily conducted an exclusive interview with Amir Ali Abolfath, an expert in US affairs, based in Tehran. Abolfath argues that Biden has set a weak presidential record so far, though not entirely out of his own fault.

Joe Biden has been in office for more than a year. Has his administration been able to meet the demands of its supporters?

A: Polls show a very low approval rating for Biden (42%) at the end of his first year of presidency, faring only slightly better than Trump (39%) at the end of his first year in office. In that regard, Biden is significantly behind Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Bushes. He has been able to implement some of his programs, most notably the general vaccination. Following the vaccination, business activity gained momentum and the unemployment rate fell from 7 to 4 percent. He also had two welfare bills passed in the Congress, which comprised a set of measures aimed at helping different sections of the American society. But his administration had a good share of shortcomings as well: The inflation rate has risen and the new Omicron strain of the coronavirus has emerged. Perhaps most importantly, the social divide in the US widened rather than being bridged – which was one of his campaign promises.


Does the social divide present an ongoing challenge for the Biden administration and the American society?

A: One can trace the genesis of sociopolitical fault lines in the United States to a long time ago: They started at least four decades ago, growing in intensity year by year. American society is now polarized to an extent that some observers warn about the looming threat of another civil war, which, however, won’t be as bloody a carnage as the first Civil War in the 19th century.

On the day of his inauguration, alongside addressing the issue of the pandemic, Biden pledged to strengthen national unity. He seems to have failed on that front. Of course, the differences are too deep for a president to resolve. Biden has not even been able to bring about unity in his own party. No one can seriously expect a president who has failed to unite his party, to reunite the broader American community. It does not seem that the next presidents of the United States would be able to create such a unity, either, especially if the likes of Trump enter the White House in the future.


Trump’s case became complicated in a new round of lawsuits in recent days. In your opinion, would these cases hinder his campaign for reelection?

A: As a rival, the Democratic Party would naturally try to remove Trump from the political race. Two cases, one about his tax issues and another related to his supporters’ invasion of Congress on January 6, complicate Trump’s case. Both cases are under investigation, and I can’t objectively see if or how they can remove Trump from the race. Raising the cases, however, ups the ante: Trump’s popularity would grow should these cases fail to remove him from the race. Trump has already consolidated his position within the Republican Party. A significant part of the American society believes that a grand conspiracy was hatched against the incumbent president in the 2020 election, calling it a coup. His opponents, in their turn, claim that he orchestrated a coup against the election. It is currently impossible to make predictions about the 2024 elections. Midterm congressional elections are also important. If the Republicans win, which is likely, Donald Trump will most likely be nominated as the Republican candidate.

You observe that Biden’s popularity in the United States has plummeted. Campaigning for the election, the global audience were impressed by the charismatic character of Biden. Did he maintain that impression, or has it collapsed within the past year?

A: During the presidential campaigns, Biden insisted that his victory would mean the return of diplomacy, and the return of the United States to the international community. He used to promise that he would reunite America’s allies, putting an end to dishonoring the international commitments which was characteristic of the Trump era. These promises made the world think that America under Biden would act more responsibly towards the international system. But this has not happened in the last year. For one thing, bringing about a change in the US is difficult. The United States can no longer assist its allies as much as before, financially or otherwise. Therefore, many countries’ attachment to the US is in decline. For another, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan showed that the Americans are not much concerned about consulting their allies. Biden was supposed to reach a consensus with his NATO allies, and NATO insisted that the United States should stay in Afghanistan, but Biden withdrew American forces anyway. Thus, the anticipation of Biden taking a more responsible approach got frustrated, undermining those initial global impressions about him. The overall outcome is partly due to his own character and partly due to the general weakness of the US, which can no longer do whatever it wants as it did in the 60s and 70s.

Washington now deals with strong rivals. China, Russia, and several other countries have taken stances against it, and the US influence on global developments is diminishing, much to the annoyance of many of its allies. We can see that formerly staunch US allies are establishing relations with China. By some accounts, Israel has extensive trade relations with the Chinese. That also applies to many Arab states of the Persian Gulf. In that light, these states would either distance themselves from the United States, or bring about a new balance between the United States and its rivals.



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