The Comforting Mediocrity of Biden

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Joe Biden

Joe Biden was inaugurated this week as the 46th president of the United States of America. Trump is gone, Biden is in. That alone is enough cause for celebration and a deep sigh of relief.

Once the honeymoon has passed, Biden will be scrutinized and critiqued by the press, the general public and the more progressive elements of his own party. Of course, there will be criticism from across the aisle, however since Republicans have demonstrated that their main focus is to oppose whatever Democrats do, it is difficult to see any of their critique as anything more than nay-saying.

Biden is a comfortable choice allowing for a push towards the “middle” of the political spectrum and away from the extremes of the previous Trump administration which represented primarily the more reactionary elements of the American public.

A Biden administration will offer the opportunity to ease divisions in the American political landscape but is unlikely to alter the landscape in significant ways.

Biden is still an establishment choice. The establishment of American politics is that its political leadership offers more fealty to large corporate donors than to the public it apparently represents. For that reason any significant change that would favor the public good over corporate profits is unlikely to be promoted.

The progressive element of the Democratic party is primarily a movement to put the public good ahead of corporate profits, which puts them in a oppositional stance to the current establishment. 

However, given the divisions in the nation and his own party, Biden has an opportunity to heal the wounds that the Trump administration exacerbated by representing primarily the elements of the political landscape that were ideological simpatico to its nationalistic, isolationist and xenophobic views.

Trump appealed to the disenchantment of those elements of the American public who felt betrayed by their political leadership. They believed that Trump populism was the answer to their pain and he was their guy. He was never their guy. Trump had only one agenda: relentlessly self-promote and profit from that promotion, while convincing a naïve populace that he was actually working for them. Clearly his ability to lie incessantly succeeded by overwhelming the press with a torrent of lies they could not process and at the same time convincing his followers that he was telling them great truths.

The fact that Trump populism was so successfully is sad commentary on the failure of political leadership to represent the electorate .  Trump could not have succeeded if there was not a significant number of Americans who felt betrayed by their political leaders. 

That fact has not changed and going forward Biden will still have to address the widespread belief, held by many, that American political leadership does not care about their circumstances and seeks only to take care of itself. 

The difficulty for Biden is that the progressive elements of the Democratic party are the most likely to convince a cynical public that politicians care about them. However, at the same time, those same progressive elements of his party have been vilified by scare tactics that reinforce the very establishment that has done so much harm to the public. How does he square that circle?

As noted, it is unlikely that much will change structurally in a Biden administration. The establishment will remain. The only hope going forward is that the comforting Biden mediocrity will make it easier for more progressive agendas to be promoted in the future.

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