by N. Peter Kramer
Joe Biden sent an encouraging message Saturday night in declaring ‘a time to heal’, as he claimed his victory in the race for the White House. Toppling an incumbent President is no small achievement. ‘Let’s give each other a chance’ and ‘put away the harsh rhetoric’, Biden said. ‘Stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans’. After a campaign in which he whipped up his supporters by calling President Trump a racist and blamed him for every Covid-19 death, you can’t do anything else than give the former Vice President the benefit of the doubt that he means what he says now.
The US elites lost faith in American democracy and its institutions when they panicked after Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. The left spent four years refusing to accept his election, Democrats deployed the FBI in 2016 to subvert his candidacy and then undermine his ability to govern. The 25th Amendment was invoked as a way to remove the President from office. It is obvious, that the elites only trust democracy when they dominate it.
The America public has behaved more rationally and exhibited its will through the ballot box. The largest voter turnout in decades shows their democratic engagement. Biden won more votes than Hillary Clinton four years ago, but Trump’s score was also higher than in 2016. In 2018 voters gave Democrats the House to check the President, it looks like their majority shrunk seriously in this election. And the Senate? We still do not know, maybe we have to wait till January 6, when in Georgia the election of two senators have to be done again. If the Democrats succeed in taking over the Senate, it will make it easier for the new president to role out his political aims. If not, a continuing Republican majority can make it very difficult for him. The Democrats didn’t win this election with the ‘expected’ landslide, the blue wave failed to occur.
Joe Biden’s narrow campaign message – COVID, Trump’s character and pre-existing conditions on health care – leaves him with a governing dilemma. He has a mandate to end the pandemic and heal partisan divisions. But does he have a mandate for the policies he promised his party’s left. In the ‘Sanders-Biden unity document’, you will find a radical progressive agenda. Joe Biden rarely mentioned it. His peril is that he will have accomplished his main campaign mission on the day he takes office: ousting Donald Trump. For Biden, the biggest obstacle to restoring more political calm and comity will probably not come from the Republicans, it will come from his own party’s left: the radical left House Democrats, and the Sanders-Warren wing in the Senate.