OPINION: A Biden win is better for Singapore, SEA and other takeaways

Image by heblo from Pixabay / Canva

Every four years, the US election captures the world’s attention; it has all the elements of a great story – the intense competition, opposing forces, the profiles of the candidates, narratives of the good, bad and ugly. Oh, and one key thing: the selection of the person who will hold the most powerful office in the world.

With President Trump, someone who seems so flawed and whose style and approach to governance is so polarizing, this election has certainly seem a lot more interesting. And, at this point, it does look like he may not get another four years.

Come 10pm, when Nevada confirms its numbers, Joe Biden looks like he could win the state and get all 270 electoral college votes. This will be the start of a protracted legal fight, for sure, but I wouldn’t see how that will stop the world from recognising Biden as the President-elect.

With Biden, I think there will be a return to norms and approaches that we are familiar with. I hope this will also mean a return to a world order that values multilateralism. I think this is better for small states like Singapore. Trump’s America-first or nothing style in geopolitics seems to set a tone that big states can bulldoze their way into things.

And Trump certainly does not seem to have regarded Southeast Asia much. According to ASEAN Today, “Trump began his presidency by engaging with ASEAN at the 2017 US-ASEAN Summit in Manila. But in 2018 and 2019, he skipped the summit and he has missed all three East Asia Summits during his presidency.”

Polls and US news media

One huge takeaway of the election results, thus far: the ‘Blue’ wave that the polls and mainstream media predicted did not materialise. This is the 2nd time it’s happening; the first time being with 2016 Clinton’s poll numbers.

This tells us one big thing: the US mainstream news media industry is in a bubble. The editors, the journalists, the producers and the people they hire; they are from a certain segment of the community – perhaps more educated group – that do not connect with the heartlands. This is a symptom of a divided society.

And Singapore appears to be having this problem. If I’m reading my country accurately, there is a segment of Singaporeans who feel increasingly disconnected from news media like The Straits Times (ST) and CNA. They may still consume the news from this companies, but it doesn’t sit well with them and they do not agree with the sentiment expressed.

This is a problem.

Anyway, since I mentioned our news media, I just wanted to applaud ST’s digital team doing a swell job in covering the US elections. ST recently revamp the website. They also did this beautiful interactive graphic of the US election results:

Media bias

Media bias is a theme raised in the recently launched book ‘Navigating Disruption’, where the author describes the constraints of narratives and storytelling. Certainly, the folks in the newsroom and content creators are telling stories based on their worldview, and they can get things wrong.

But, I’ll argue that at the end of the day, we still need news media. They provide an indispensable public good. They provide information of what’s happening in society and around the world, and this helps us to be informed and make our daily decisions.

If you’re interested to learn more about news media operations, get your copy of ‘Navigating Disruption: Media Relations in the Digital Age’: