As Joe Biden passed the days of his moribund 2020 presidential campaign, a single phrase uttered in one of his rare public appearances – a presidential debate – came to define the man and his vision. It was a phrase which most all of us will remember as clarifying, and uttered as almost an antidote to President Trump’s persistent optimism about overcoming the coronavirus plague.
A dark winter.
One immediately supposed this to be another in a seemingly unending string of political blunders by the former vice president. After all, what candidate in his right mind would deliberately project a gloomy, dystopian vision of the future? Presidential hopefuls have historically postured as optimistic, sunny even. But then, virtually every metric that was 100% accurate in the fullness of time was flipped on its head to produce a Biden victory, so the first-ever win for darkness over light can just be added to the list.
And what made it even more bizarre was Biden’s own knowledge that if he won, he would be handed a gift of immeasurable value in the vaccines produced during Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. They would turn him into a hero. But he was nothing if not consistent in his pessimism, and shielded by the media wing of the Democratic Party as he was throughout the campaign, the incoming president was never made to pay a price for his doom and gloom.
But Biden must truly believe this will be a dark winter because he has repeated the phrase on more than one occasion since he was declared the winner of the election. And now, we are witnessing in the president-elect’s party the leading edge of a purge. All who dared support Trump, or were skeptical of the election results, will be subjected to revenge in multiple forms. Oh, and don’t forget Biden’s promise to swiftly overturn the Trump tax cuts, meaning a tax increase – in the midst of an economy still struggling with an ongoing pandemic.
A dark winter, indeed. What, then, can or will the 46th president, together with his razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate, deliver on the sunny side of the street? Topping the to-do list in the early days of this next administration are health care reform, climate change legislation, and measures to address racial justice. A public option added to Obamacare, transforming it into Bidencare, will certainly require another tax hike. Re-regulating the energy producers who were deregulated by Trump will add familiar pre-Trump burdens back on to an industry that has spearheaded energy independence – still the most underrated achievement of President Trump. And the sorry state of race relations would seem to require far more than perfunctory, virtue-signaling bills in Congress condemning white supremacy and a declining caucasian president, thought illegitimate by tens of millions of voters, seemingly on his last legs. And now we are witnessing a burgeoning crisis with waves of Central American refugees approaching our southern border (now defended with 452 miles of wall, at last count), undoubtedly encouraged by Trump’s defeat and Biden’s plea for them to wait and save him from a crisis on day one of his administration.
It is difficult to envision anything in the months ahead approaching the utopian vision which the new chief executive will be pressured to embrace by AOC, Bernie, and the progressive wing of the party. Biden’s early moves and cabinet nominations suggest a return to the very thing which has defined Biden’s five decades in Washington – the entrenched establishment, and a smattering of bouquets to leftists who reluctantly supported his campaign. However, time is short for a party in control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress. Democrats in 2008 and Republicans in 2016 were giddy after sweeping the big three. Both were in for rude awakenings two years later. So Biden, along with Pelosi, Schumer, and company, understands the need to make hay while the sun shines. The question is how he can do so without overturning his predecessor’s many landmark achievements for which he was applauded by the majority of Americans and which, love him or hate him, marked him as one of the most consequential presidents in American history.
Read more from Tim Donner.