Old Doc Collins gazes into his crystal ball.
Well. Joe Biden has finally reached the summit he has desired his entire life. His followers are singing their version of “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.” They are flush with victory, seeing nothing but sunshine ahead. Now is not the time for sour grapes. Every election renews our democracy, and every beginning is full of hope, for somebody. At this moment, everything seems possible for the victors. But the facts on the ground have not changed, and they have sown the field out of which the future must be cultivated.
The first thing to realize is that America remains a center-right country. The American people have voted for Trumpism without Trump, in Andrew Sullivan’s phrase. In race after race, the voters rejected socialism and identity politics. Trump attracted more minority voters than any Republican candidate since 1960. Meanwhile, the GOP made significant gains in the House of Representatives and look like they’ll hang onto the Senate. Given that presidents often lose seats in mid-term elections, it is possible that the Republicans might retake the House in 2022 (although it is equally possible that the Democrats might flip the Senate, where the GOP has an unfavorable map ahead). In California, deepest of blue States, racial preferences and suppression of the gig economy were on the ballot, and both lost. Not only that, but the GOP made great gains in State legislatures: they’ll now draw the district maps for the next ten years.
All of this reduces the area in which Joe Biden can operate. He can issue executive orders and he’ll be in charge of foreign policy, but I don’t see much chance of his achieving sweeping legislative victories. We’ll have divided government, which seems to be what Americans like. That means that the personalities of our leaders will loom large. Donald Trump, of course, is an outrageous personality, though I think history will be kinder to him than his opponents are now (he will go down in the history books as “colorful”). But Trump’s outsized personality and quirks mask the fact that Joe Biden has his own problems. It is not for nothing that he has failed every time he has run for President before. He is a compulsive liar, for one thing, a serial fabulist who embroiders his own life and issues unbelievable denials of obvious things. He is a braggart and a bully, too, and without Trump as a foil, this will not go over as well. He has real issues with handsy behavior (who can forget his sniffing the hair of a nominee’s wife while Obama was introducing her husband on TV?). And he has a history of financial peculation which goes beyond the greed of his son, Hunter. The news media will want to ignore all this, but people have eyes and they can see for themselves.
Assuming Biden doesn’t die in office, Kamala Harris has also reached the apogee of her political career, from which she will probably be heard of no more. The Vice-Presidency is as John Nance Garner described it. And the more Harris makes herself known, the less people will like her. She went absolutely nowhere in the Democratic primaries and dropped out before the first votes were cast. She was chosen for VP because Biden had promised to name a woman of color (and he needed one who wouldn’t outshine him). Unless we wind up in a 50-50 tie in the Senate, Harris will have little to do, and what she does do will not wear well with voters.
Events, of course, can bring forth all kinds of different outcomes, and who knows? Biden may make something of the future which I can’t foresee. But all things considered, the Republicans shouldn’t be so downcast. The future for their kind of politics looks pretty bright. The only storm cloud on the horizon for them is, of course, Donald Trump. If he goes “Bull Moose” on them next time around, he could seriously damage the party in its quest to retake the White House. But that’s farther out beyond the range of my crystal ball than I can see. Lots of things can happen in four years, good, bad, and indifferent. Trump will cut his own path, I’m sure.