It remains unclear to me whether Joe Biden was elected president or whether Trump was not. Biden, who tried and tried back when he had a bit more spring in his step to be the Democratic nominee for the presidency couldn’t get any traction. He was an uninspiring speaker, prone to gaffes, without much of a vision beyond himself sitting in the Oval Office.
This time, he was the default, not Trump and yet not the craziest of the left. To some, Joe Biden was the least offensive choice. To others, he was the last chance to return to moderate politics, to reject the extremes. Maybe he was the best choice, as the last liberal left in the Democratic Party, if only he was strong enough to fend off the most radical of his left wing that left us with Trump last time.
When Trump was inaugurated this date in 2017, many wished him ill. They wanted him to fail to prove that he was a terrible choice, a terrible person, a person for whom only horrible things should come. After all, if he had any success, it would enhance his chances of re-election, which was the worst thing that could ever happen. Ironically, I suspect that if Trump had been capable of constraining his mouth and fingers, or listening to people around him who dwarfed him in intelligence, experience and decency, he would have sailed to re-election. But then, that’s not who Trump is.
I wish President Donald J. Trump every success in improving the lives of Americans. I don’t do this because of Trump, but because of the people whose lives will be affected by his presidency. To wish ill on this administration is to wish ill on your fellow human beings.
This nation is deeply polarized, and both sides are remarkably similar though they are too blind to see it. For better or worse, Donald Trump will be sworn in as our 45th President. Regardless of your feelings toward him, hope for the best of times. Not for his sake, but for your own and your fellow Americans.
I do the same for President Biden. I wish you every success, Mr. President. I wish you health and strength. I wish you clarity of thought and, dare I say it, the vision to return us to a peaceful, cohesive, sane nation. We need to be able to disagree again without hatred and violence.
When Trump was elected, I refused to hate him as much as my compatriots did, and lost a few friends as a result. It wasn’t because I liked him. I did not. I found him personally repugnant then, and far more so today. But I refused to allow my personal disgust toward the man dictate my views about any particular issue, as so many others couldn’t resist doing. For them, if it had anything to do with Trump, it was, by definition, hated. This, I would not do.
You can’t be the good people you want to believe you are while hating other people. You can’t be the good person you want to believe you are while wishing other people harm.
The next few months will be interesting. From what little Biden has shown us, he’s trying hard to thread the needle of being the old school liberal that he’s always been, while placating the screamers to his left and not inflaming the conservatives and the radical nationalists to his right. I don’t know that this is possible.
Four years ago, my working theory was that the nation had 20% on the fringes, both right and left, who were prepared to put every effort into pushing their agenda and ideology into the mainstream. The crazy right was the far easier of the two to dismiss, consisting of overt brutes who make no effort to hide their repulsive views.
The crazy left presented a harder problem, their lofty claims concealing the brutality and irrationality of their methods. It was hard to disagree with their worthy ends, and indeed, were these not the same goals that we liberals supported for generations? But they were unprincipled, absolute and untenable. And they want to beat society into submission for its own good.
Four years ago, with 20% on either fringe, that left a majority in the moderate middle, with disagreements about what should be done and how best to accomplish it, but with a shared belief that the point was to make the nation a better place for all. As we used to say, a rising tide lifts all boats. What wasn’t said was that the boats of the few should rise and the boats of the many, well, too bad as they enjoyed the rising tide for too long. No nation can survive when the majority of its people are neglected for the benefit of the minority.
Joe Biden has uttered the words that he will be president for all Americans, whether they supported him, voted for him, or not. He has also uttered the woke words of race and gender whenever possible. These are not compatible. He may never be able to bring the Trump nutjobs into the fold, any more than Trump could do anything acceptable to the Resistance, but Joe Biden can be the president for the majority of Americans in the middle who share a desire to do what’s best for everyone, including those who have been marginalized in the past. There’s a reason why old Joe was the Democratic nominee, and not Bernie or Liz. Not even the Democrats wanted their economic or social “reimagination” of America. We wanted America.
My expectations of Trump were so low that he not only met them, but exceeded them. My expectations of Biden are that he will do better. I wish our new president, Joe Biden, every success in doing so. Godspeed, President Biden.