While Joe Biden's Presidency gives people a chance to rebuild, it also faces the bitterness and opposition of Trump's ever-loyal supporters, writes Dr Martin Hirst.
Four years later, Joe Biden stood on the same spot in Washington DC and surveyed the American wreckage left by the Trump maladministration. Biden called for unity and an end to America’s “uncivil war”. It was a speech more of hope than of certainty.
Downtown Washington looked more like war-ravaged Baghdad than the capital of a major Western nation. The entire city centre had been transformed into a barricaded ‘Green Zone’ patrolled by more than 20,000 heavily armed national guards.
The mall where traditionally large crowds have gathered to celebrate the inauguration of a new president was covered with 200,000 small flags. It wasn’t enough, but still, it was a grim requiem for the 400,000 Americans who died in Trump’s mishandled year of the plague.
The death toll from COVID-19 is likely to go up, perhaps past the half-a-million mark before it starts to fall. President Biden is calling for 100 days of mask-wearing, but in the deeply divided nation, there will be tens of millions who see this as another manifestation of a “communist” plot to steal their freedom.
Despite all his bluster, his tantrums, his threats and his efforts to sabotage the will of the American people with wild claims of widespread vote fraud in November’s Election, Trump must be quietly relieved that he is leaving his mess for Joe Biden to clean up.
The wreckage of Trump’s chaos
Trump has never cared about anyone but himself. He has never cared about anything but his own wealth and wellbeing. He certainly doesn’t care that he – and he alone – is responsible for the carnage of the last four years and the wreckage he’s left behind.
Trump ruled according to his own toxic brand of chaos theory. Create chaos to disguise the true authoritarian agenda of America First. Sow division to mask the dismantling of the bipartisan welfare state in order to enrich Republican loyalists.
Dog whistle the nativist supremacists in the Republican base while you carefully pickpocket their savings and destroy their livelihood. Create the distraction of Antifa while you systematically loot the treasury and transfer ill-gotten gains to your family’s already bloated bank accounts.
Empower the police to continue their racist rampage through America’s Black and coloured communities while cities burn with rage. Tell the White supremacist Proud Boys to ‘stand by’ and then unleash them on your enemies in a last-ditch effort to save the grift.
Trump is gone, but Trumpism will flourish in the wreckage he walked away from.
The impossibility of Biden’s Presidency
Joe Biden has an impossible task, but even if it were possible, he would still fail and disappoint many people who voted for him. Biden’s only virtue is he is not Donald Trump.
Joe Biden is the ultimate swamp creature. He lives and breathes the privilege his aristocratic place in American public life bequeaths him. Biden is a focal point of American power and his constituency is the military-industrial complex, not the minimum wage worker in Scranton, Ohio.
Joe Biden is no friend of Antifa; he is not going to defund the police or tackle systemic racism beyond symbolism.
There are tens, if not hundreds, of millions of Americans who still believe in Trump and who will not willingly abandon his messianic cult of personality. There is a hardcore lump of ignorance, fear and hatred solidified in the soul of America and it finds expression in the MAGA maniacs who have handed millions of dollars to Trump even though they knew – if they’d ever read the fine print – that it was not for “the cause” but for the family.
Trump has hinted that he is going to start a new political party for the patriots. In his departure speech, Trump promised to not go away. If he does start his “Patriot Party”, it will be another grift. It will be just another arm of the Trump corporate goliath, a money-spinner that sucks in the rubes to hand over their votes, but more importantly, their cash.
Make no mistake, Trump will need the cash. He is financially exposed to half-a-billion dollars in debt. The banks that once funded his empire of mirrors have walked away from him. It is likely Trump will be facing criminal charges arising from both his business activity and the grift he conducted from the Oval Office.
Joe Biden has a tough job in front of him. He has already issued a flurry of executive orders to undo some of Trump’s damage, but that’s the easy part.
Biden knows he has to squash the Left of his party before they capture the agenda and hold a blowtorch to his belly on issues like the minimum wage, climate change and health care.
But Biden also has to figure out how to soothe the rage of the Trumpist Republican base. He has fulfilled the rhetorical part of this mission by saying he wants to be a “healing” president who governs for everyone. The reality is that is not going to happen.
Things will never return to normal in post-Trump Washington. The barricades, the fences, the armed guards and the climate of barely suppressed aggression will haunt the Biden Administration like Beetlejuice; an irrepressible spectre seething with past injustices and a visceral hatred for the new order.
The bitterness, anger, fear and rancour that gave sustenance to Trump’s delusions and fuelled the assault on Washington on 6 January has been bottled up for now.
Trump is no longer there to be a figurehead for this hostility, but his supporters are going to feel like prisoners of war in an occupied country that has been taken from them by force.
It is only a matter of time before their resentments break through the seals and plugs now containing them. In their eyes, Biden will never be a legitimate president and that makes him a legitimate target.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are now in clear and present danger. Somewhere, perhaps in a small West Virginian hamlet, or in a Baton Rouge basement, a terrified and angry gun-owning patriot might be busily concocting a plan to take them out.
The biggest threat to Joe Biden’s Presidency is not dealing with climate change, COVID-19 or the economy, it’s the memory of Trump and the stochastic terrorism of his most ardent fans.
It will not be easy to rebuild America from the legacy of wreckage left by Trump’s carnival of carnage.
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