It was remarkable to watch as the throngs in London lit fireworks to celebrate Joe Biden’s election as the United State’s 46th president. The same happened in Paris. And, of course, throughout the United States, right down to Church Street in Burlington. World leaders quickly sent in their congratulatory messages, as did our own, right down to Republican Gov. Phil Scott. All welcomed the promise of a return to normalcy, to collaboration, to being civil, respectful, orderly and just plain competent.
The celebration is not being received well at the White House. Which is not unexpected. If we have learned anything from President Trump it’s that he doesn’t lose well. On anything.
There is, however, a difference between not enjoying a loss and simply not accepting it, insisting it didn’t happen, claiming the opposition cheated, preferring to pout in the corner, which is the path Mr. Trump has chosen.
The president has no evidence of wrong doing. Not a shred. And the history of recounts over the past century shows an eventual difference of about 400 votes from what was first tallied. No rational person believes a scenario exists in which Mr. Trump serves a second term.
The chattering class insists Mr. Trump’s hold on the Republican Party is absolute and that his shadow extends for the foreseeable future, many of the faithful hoping he, or one of his family, will run again in 2024. This is why precious few Republicans are publicly urging the president to accept his defeat and to move on. They think his voice will continue to matter.
Maybe. But as devoted as his following may be people also judge their leaders in their losses. They also pay attention to how others respond. When Mr. Trump calls the election fraudulent and utters claims of victory [before the ballots were even counted] even his diehards must shrink to their corners. What is there to defend? And given the fickle nature of us humans, how long will they hold on to something that is no longer?
People like to see graciousness in their leaders regardless of circumstance. That shows a strength of character. It’s not the same sort of “strength” Mr. Trump values, but it’s the sort of strength the American public expects and it’s the sort of strength that allows a following to maintain its hope.
The crystal ball doesn’t exist that allows us to see ahead, but it also doesn’t take much intuition to understand that the pollsters badly miscalculated last Tuesday’s results. They had Mr. Biden in a blowout, one that didn’t happen. Twice now, they’ve underestimated Mr. Trump and what he represents.
Mr. Biden’s message of unity plays well and the world welcomes the United States back to its bid for normalcy, but the Democratic Party needs to figure out how it’s missed the support of the working class, and it needs to shed its image of being the party of the elite. It can no longer assume it has the support of minorities, as the votes in Texas and Florida showed. The president received an estimated 12 percent of the African American vote; double what he received in 2016. Understanding how will be crucial for the Democratic Party to ferret out.
If the Trump shadow is to be avoided, or minimized, it has to be understood, and not underestimated. Mr. Trump’s mastery is the art of snubbing authority and being a contrarian when it placed him at the center of all things being considered. The appeal of his anti-elitism — at all levels — found a home with a base that rebels at being told it’s wrong, or that it’s not good enough, or that it needs to change.
The challenge is one of time and effort. Unlike most first term presidencies, there is a strong age-related reason Mr. Biden will not serve a second term. We’ve got no more than 24-30 months before the next presidential contest begins. That’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but as the world’s cheering has shown, the passion to do better and to be better is there.
by Emerson Lynn