The worst cannot be ruled out. Let us imagine for a moment that the funds of the European recovery plan take even longer to be allocated, that industrial and commercial bankruptcies stifle trade, and that a crisis, a real crisis, sets in with its cohorts of unemployed and its stock market collapse. Let us imagine that, at the same time, for fear of weakening his Senate majority, Joe Biden wastes too much time seeking a compromise with the Republicans, that, as a consequence, the recovery of the American economy is compromised and that the loss of confidence in this new president ends up paralysing his team.
Any of these scenarios are possible. They are even so plausible today that we have to imagine their consequences.
Tens of millions of people would quickly plunge into misery. The major European parties and the American Democratic Party would lose credibility. On both sides of the Atlantic, democratic forces would retreat in favour of a rebound of Trumpism in the United States and of the new extreme rights in Europe. This crisis of democracies would lead to a crisis of Democracy itself and a shift of Western voters towards the illusions of social nationalism and an “every man for himself” leading to the “right of all against all”.
Let us not exaggerate, one might say.
We are not there yet, the chorus of serenity will say, and they will be right.
We are not there yet because Thatcherian dogmas are receding while Keynesianism is making a comeback with the European Union loans and the increase in the minimum wage in the United States. For the time being, common sense largely prevails while vaccination is spreading, but look!
Look at Joe Biden’s political culture that brings him so naturally to this desire for compromise born of bygone times when Republicans had not moved so massively to the right of the right wing. Look at Italy’s breathless quest for a majority coherent enough to be truly stable.
Look at Germany, whose conservative majority is so divided by the crumbling taboo on indebtedness. Look at France, where polls promise a neck-and-neck between Emmanuel Macron and Madame Le Pen in the second round of the 2022 presidential election. Look at the madness that has gripped the Netherlands in the face of the constraints of the fight against the pandemic, and look, not the least, at the speed with which a delay in the delivery of vaccines nearly put the European Commission and the whole Union to shame.
The storm has not yet risen, but it threatens, on both sides of the Atlantic, and it will not be avoided without saying loud and clear that we must not only hasten but double the recovery effort in Europe and not wait for an agreement with the Republicans to launch it in the United States.
The Biden team proposes the idea of a Summit of Democracies to affirm a common front against dictatorships and democratorships. Yes, very good. Let’s do it, as soon as possible, but let’s do it so that it’s an opportunity to announce that the Democracies will together advocate massive investment in infrastructure, medical research, and industries of the future, that they will do it themselves, through borrowing and without delay, that they will together help the poorest countries to fight this pandemic, and that they will give themselves the means to transform the Atlantic Alliance into an alliance of equal partners in rights and duties.
Without this, without the clear formulation of these four common objectives, Europe and the United States will give neither a horizon to their electorate nor democratic faith to the rest of the world and will not, in a word, avoid this rumbling earthquake.