There was one Norwegian word dominating the country’s massive media coverage of the US election over the weekend: lettelse (relief). Commentators were still hailing Democrat Joe Biden’s victory on Monday, while conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg made it clear she won’t miss the ultra-conservative Donald Trump’s unpredictability.
“I was perhaps mostly relieved when the result was clear,” Solberg told reporters in Oslo on Sunday. “We have all spent a lot of time following all the vote-counting in the US.”
She also admitted that Trump’s political style has been demanding for US allies like Norway, diplomatically calling Trump “a different sort of politician” but noting that he has “nurtured” surprise and unpredictability.
“The unpredictability and the surprises that became a way of conducting (US) politics isn’t something we like,” Solberg added. “We think stability is good. We think unpredictability is a challenge, and I won’t miss the unpredictability.”
Solberg was quick to congratulate President-Elect Joe Biden after he emerged as the winner Saturday evening Norwegian time. She repeated how the US is Norway’s “most important ally and we cooperate closely in many areas,” stressing that she looked forward to develop cooperation under Biden’s leadership.
“The world needs American leadership to solve the big global challenges,” Solberg said. “We look forward to good cooperation with the Biden Administration, on the UN Security Council (where Norway recently won a seat), and in the international work against the Corona pandemic and against climate change, among other areas.”
Solberg was also “extremely glad” that Kamala Harris, a senator from California, was elected as the US’ first female vice president. Norway has regularly been led by women for several decades, not least during Solberg’s administration, and many Norwegians think it’s about time that a woman reaches the highest offices in the US.
Norway’s prime minister for the past seven years also stressed the importance of the record high voter turnout in the US, calling that “positive for democracy.” She added that it was now important for both presidential candidates, Biden and Trump, to unite a divided American society, calling “recognition of an election defeat as an important part of the process.”
Trump still seems to have no intention of contributing to the latter. On Sunday, when Solberg met reporters to share her thoughts on the election and its aftermath, she was clearly disappointed. By spreading doubt about the result of the election, and refusing to concede the election to Biden, he’s contributing to more polarization, in Solberg’s view.
Trump ‘a defeated man’
That view was widely shared among commentators on both the right- and left sides of Norwegian politics on Monday. Norway’s largest newspaper, Aftenposten, editorialized how Trump “had every opportunity to acknowledge defeat with dignity, without looking like a defeated man. By congratulating Biden, he would have also done his country a favour.” Trump has instead chosen to carry on with charges of fraud and cheating, file legal challenges against election results and attempt to rally his own troops and stir up more divisiveness.
“Maybe he’ll have to be carried out of the White House” in January, Aftenposten mused. Aftenposten conceded that Trump might have won himself if the Corona crisis hadn’t come along, “but he delivered catastrophically bad leadership during the crisis.” The traditionally conservative paper had earlier editorialized that the world needs “a wiser leader in the White House.”
Norway’s leading business daily Dagens Næringsliv (DN) had all but complained that Norwegians couldn’t vote in the US election, calling it “as important as our own national election, and seldom as important as this year.” If Europeans in general had been able to vote, Trump would have lost by a landslide, DN predicted, based on recent surveys.
That’s largely because Trump pulled the US out of the UN climate agreement, the nuclear agreement with Iran, blocked work at the World Trade Organisation and bashed the World Health Organisation at the Corona crisis. “He has created uncertainty in the world economy with his trade conflicts,” DN editorialized. “The man with the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ has weakend the US’ international reputation and global influence.” Biden, wrote DN, “can contribute to more international order and civilized conditions in the White House.”
Newspaper Dagsavisen editorialized on Monday that Trump’s attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the US election are “undemocratic” but will yield the 2020 election “a prominent place in history.” The paper called Trump “a catastrophe for the US and the world,” while Biden can steer the US back towards more stability and international cooperation.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide stressed how the Norwegian government has managed to continue cooperation with the US through officials at the departmental/ministerial levels, and some argue that bilateral ties between Norway and the US stronger than ever, not least within defense. Søreide nonetheless looked forward to “renew continuity” with the US administration under Biden, which she expects will be “more internationally oriented.”
“We’re used to cooperating with all US presidents,” Søreide diplomaticaly told state broadcaster NRK during the weekend, but she, like Solberg, was looking forward to “more predictability.” Both, however, noted that Biden faces a huge job ahead in trying to gain control over the Corona virus that has already killed more than 230,000 Amerians, and then in healing the nation as a whole.