If elected, Biden would walk into the White House at a moment unprecedented in our history. He would find himself governing in a conjunctural crisis whose templates are a deadly pandemic, a crisis-ridden national and global economy, a racial reckoning, and a worldwide climate emergency that cry out for solution. Standing still isn’t an option. Nor is a return to the pre-Trump normal, whatever that was. And I believe he, Kamala Harris, and most Democrats realize this.
Moreover, like Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Johnson, he would feel the pulls, pressures, and desires of an electorate as well as a coalition that carried him over the finish line on Election Day. No doubt, both voters and activists would expect an agenda that includes immediate relief, a science-driven plan to attack the coronavirus, the enactment of progressive reforms in line with the crises gripping the country, a reckoning with policing and systemic racism, and, not least, the democratization of voting laws and the political system.
Such an agenda would not only resonate with tens of millions feeling the crushing weight of the present times, but it might well register with some of Trump’s base too. It’s progressive policies and legislation not clever turns of phrase that will begin to fracture that retrograde coalition.
Speaking of Trump, while he would be out of the White House and no longer able to employ the executive power of the office, his authoritarian movement and likely Trump himself would be squarely a part of the political landscape and up to no good. To believe otherwise would be naive. The defeated South didn’t roll over at the end of the Civil War. Nor did the anti-New-Dealers in the 1930s. And by the late 60s, a right wing backlash came quick on the heels of the civil rights revolution. In our time, the election of the first African American president triggered fierce opposition.
Thus, the democratic and progressive coalition that powered the victory would have to remain engaged and mobilized not only to bend the needle in a progressive and social democratic direction, but also to keep the right at bay. While differences over the scope and pace of reform would inevitably surface, the accent across the Democratic Party and democratic coalition should still remain on unity and united action. Any idea that the various currents in the Democratic Party and the democratic coalition should turn into warring factions on the day after the elections with each one vying for dominance over the other would amount to a self inflicted wound, while providing space for a revival of a defeated Republican Party and white nationalist authoritarianism.