Serious questions about America’s role in the world will not go away just because Donald Trump was defeated.
Hope. That is, at least, the dominant feeling in many global capitals as they adjust to the reality that Joe Biden will soon be president of the United States and, more to the point, that Donald Trump will not be: At least for now, NATO is safe; the transatlantic alliance is safe; global free trade is safe—the world as we knew it is safe. The grown-ups are moving back in. Life can be breathed back into the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear agreement, and even the deflated idea of multilateralism itself. For those who believe in such things, the removal of the most powerful figure in recent history who does not is a manifestly important moment.
The closeness of the race, though, leaves a nagging fear that the world has not seen the last of Trump. Like an allegorical monster, he remains wounded but out there, lurking, ready to wreak his revenge. Even if he does not reemerge from the bushes himself to claim victory in the courts or, indeed, to try again in 2024, his dogma remains. That Trump got as close as he did in the midst of a pandemic and a global recession means that Trumpism remains defiantly alive. For the world, this is of fundamental importance: Protection is required.