Biden hampered by out-performing his own party
By Simon Heffer
It was said of Macbeth that nothing became him in his life like the leaving of it. Perversely the same is true of Donald Trump.
Four years as president spent boasting, lying, cheating and behaving swinishly have culminated in a similar response to his defeat by Joe Biden in the election: boasting he had won, followed by lying about widespread electoral fraud, an attempt to cheat and secure a result the American people did not want and did not vote for, and generally behaving with less grace than a pig in defeat.
Much that has happened to Trump in his life as a public figure has shown that his one strength is to brush off humiliation like dandruff from his shoulders. If he has to be dragged kicking and screaming from the White House on 20 January, even he might yet find the effect such an act of degradation has on his reputation more than he can bear.
Trump is sending in some of the most vicious lawyers in a country celebrated for them – starting with Rudy Giuliani – to try and get the results of the election overturned. At the time of writing no convincing evidence of ballot fraud has been supplied.
Biden won’t have to deal with Trump; but Trump created a following that survives him, and in substantial numbers
Anecdotes about the dead voting, or votes being cast by people who no longer live in the places specified on the register, are likely to apply just as much to those who supported Trump as to those who voted against him. Whatever he thinks in the apparent insanity of his defeat, and from arrogance, having some results annulled and the election re-run is highly unlikely to happen.
Media hostile to Trump – in other words, most of them – ran stories after his defeat appeared inevitable saying that he would end up going on trial for tax evasion and would be lucky to escape prison.
We’ll see about that too, as we shall about allegations that Trump might pre-emptively pardon himself and various of his associates before he leaves office – though that last act of swinishness is all too believable, given the utterances Trump made in the days immediately after the election.
What really matters, though, is what happens when Trump is history and Joe Biden is in the Oval Office – to Biden, to the Democratic and Republican parties, and most of all to America.
Although much of the abuse of Biden concerning his age (he will be the oldest president ever to assume office) has been dismissed as fake news, the vulnerability that comes with being 77 was obvious during his campaign.
Being in the age group most susceptible to Covid-19, he had to go into isolation in Delaware and thus was invisible for much of the last few months. This may have worked to his advantage: his programme was heavy on rhetoric and light on detail.
The minimal exposure it thus received may not have ensured Biden won the election, but it probably ensured he beat Trump as well as he did. However, more worrying will be some of the slip-ups visible during his rare public appearances.
In the last days of the campaign he attracted international ridicule for seeming to forget who he was fighting, thinking his adversary was called ‘George’. This was explained away as his thinking he was fighting George Bush; it might just as easily been George Washington.
Biden will have to struggle with another obvious problem facing the Democrats. He seriously outperformed his own party
Then, less amusingly, Biden confused his granddaughter with his dead son, Beau; and when he eventually realised his mistake, addressed her by the name of her sister. He will not be the only grandparent to make such a mistake, though if to do so once is a misfortune, twice is certainly downright careless.
The questions about Biden’s mental acuity are unlikely to go away, and they may even come to feature in the panoply of potential legal challenges Trump is said to be considering: there were rumours that some Republican state authorities were considering not signing off the support of their state electoral college for Biden on the grounds that he was of unsound mind when he stood for election.
But even if a challenge such as that does not manifest itself, ever since Kamala Harris was nominated as vice-president there’s been a discussion underway about when and if she will assume the mantle of the presidency.
It is a discussion that assumes that, once he is in the White House, Biden’s mental state will deteriorate to a point where it cannot be concealed and where it is affecting his discharge of his executive abilities, so that his vice-president has to take over.
But the US constitution says that if she were to assume those duties before halfway through Biden’s term she would only be eligible for one crack at the White House herself. If she were to come into office after 20 January 2023, then she can run for two full terms – which, if she won them, would make her the second longest-serving president in US history after Roosevelt.
Of course, Biden has yet to become mentally incapable of doing the job, and until he does he will have to struggle with another obvious problem facing the Democrats.
He seriously out-performed his own party in terms of the races for the Senate, the House of Representatives and for state governorships. Indeed, there are plentiful anecdotes about ballot papers on which only one vote was cast – for Biden – while the opportunity to vote for Democratic Party candidates in other posts was passed up.
A Senate he does not control could make life exceptionally difficult for him, once he devises a programme he wants to implement. Biden’s rhetoric about “reaching across the aisle” and co-operating with his republican opponents may prove easier said than done.
Some pundits have pointed out that Vice President-elect Harris has in the past observed that at times she felt as though she and Biden were not in the same party. Republicans who imagine that it will be President Harris before America has the chance to vote again are unlikely to want to prove too obliging, just in case they end up being forced to deal with someone they regard as a socialist.
The question of Republican co-operation, or lack of it, raises the grave question of how easy it will be to unite America after the Trump years. Biden may have secured the largest popular vote in the country’s history, but Trump had the second largest.
For all his atrocities, Trump had 70 million Americans behind him, and they have maintained Republican control of the Senate and possibly ensured that, come the midterm elections, the House will go back to Republican control too – making it even harder for Biden, or possibly a President Harris, to run the country as they would wish to do.
And Republicans, or at least some of them, would justify their obstructiveness by pointing to a country with a substantial constituency of those who share their values, and a Democratic president whose party rejects many of those values out of hand.
Biden may have secured the largest popular vote in the country’s history, but Trump had the second largest
This in turn raises the question of how governable America is. The East Coast, the West Coast and the northern Mid-West seem bitterly opposed to the attitudes of much of the rest of the country.
Views on abortion, race relations, sexual morality, aspects of international relations, free markets and state intervention do not differ in a nuanced fashion, but in one that creates polar opposites.
Trump, paradoxically, was not ideological: a man of few principles, he seemed to believe in very little apart from himself.
Those who followed him, however, believed passionately in a way he did not about the need to close down abortion clinics, or to close American markets to Chinese goods; and they absorbed undiluted his rhetoric about all manner of things from the United Nations to the matter of how to treat, or not treat, Covid-19.
In Trump they had a leader who was, or found it easy to pretend he was, as entrenched, as backward-looking and as harsh in his sentiments as they often were. And they liked Trump’s bullying and aggressive manner, which they took as strong leadership but which everyone else regarded as offensive and embarrassing.
Biden won’t have to deal with Trump; but Trump created a following that survives him, and in substantial numbers. The new President will find that it won’t accept defeat any more easily than its leader did, and they will be the root of his problems.
The US Election by Donald Trump
Simon Heffer is a columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and a professor of history at Buckingham University