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WHAT WILL JOE BIDEN DO NOW?

By Shivaji Sengupta

Still, the Trump challenge is a nuisance and a hindrance to a smooth transition that every rightful president-elect deserves. Trump, typical of his mean disposition, is completing a self-fulfilling fallacy that the election would have to be stolen for him to lose. He has been saying this for months. What is somewhat surprising is that the vast number of elected Republicans, all the way from Mitch McConnell to the recently elected freshmen in Congress have supported Trump’s legal challenge

It has been quite a few days since CNN declared Joseph R. Biden the President-Elect. He was sitting on 253 votes for the longest time, until Pennsylvania broke for him, giving the 20 Electoral College votes he needed to go past 270. Later, Nevada’s six put him on 279. Donald Trump is at 214.

 

For Joe Biden, it has been a long road to the presidency. I became aware of him when he chaired the Commission appointed by President George Herbert Bush to hear the accusations of sexual harassment brought by an attorney, Anita Hill, against Judge Clarence Thomas, nominated by Bush to the Supreme Court. That was in 1992; Biden was fifty years old. I remember being impressed by the “lecture” he gave to the judge about being respectful to women. It was a mixture of empathy and caution. Empathy, because Biden recognized that for time immemorial men have taken for granted treating women in a cavalier manner; caution because Biden was saying that we all have to recognize that to do so is wrong.

 

Since then he had tried for the presidency three times, leaving the primaries early in the first two, and going all the way this time. Yes, he has been defeated and torn apart by family tragedy. But each time, he was able to pick himself up, dust off disappointment, and resume his journey. That journey has now taken him to the door of the White House. Trump, characteristically, is trying to shut that door, but we will come to that later.

 

Righting the wrongs

Democrats in this country are happy because this man, by his very nature and experience, will bring the country together after four years of divisiveness, mismanagement, blaming, and lies. America has had no peace since Day 1 of the Trump regime when he announced the banning of the entry of Muslims from predominantly Islamic countries. Trump had governed by flaunting the  American traditions of leadership abroad, being the beacon of democracy and freedom. And at home, safeguarding individual liberty, enhancing research and development, or even promoting fair market competition. Most dangerous and tragic of all was the way he encouraged white supremacy and the consequent jeopardizing of Black lives through police brutality. Biden has promised to right all these wrongs.

The Trump court challenge to the election is a nuisance and a hindrance to a smooth transition that every rightful president-elect deserves. Trump, typical of his mean disposition, is completing a self-fulfilling fallacy that the election would have to be stolen for him to lose. He has been saying this for months. What is somewhat surprising is that the vast number of elected Republicans, all the way from Mitch McConnell to the recently elected freshmen in Congress have supported Trump’s legal challenge and refusal to concede.

The biggest WRONG is, of course, Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus. On January 20, when Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, the Coronavirus casualties may rise to over 15 million ill and more than 330,000 dead, and the country ill-prepared to handle the catastrophe because of Trump’s neglect. In this transitional phase, while most presidents-elect take some time off and work on putting together his administration, Joe Biden is working furiously at Coronavirus. He has put together a task force of 13 members, eleven of whom are either scientists or physicians. It is led by two co-chairs, Dr. Vivek Murthy and Dr. David Kessler. The former was President Obama’s surgeon general. He has been advising Joe Biden on the Virus throughout his campaign this year. Biden is trying his best to get every American to wear a  mask. He cannot mandate it because it is beyond federal jurisdiction except in federal run buildings and public parks. However, he is trying to work with governors of all the states to ask them to mandate masks. Since becoming president-elect, he hasn’t back-tracked on his views on the dangers posed by the Coronavirus as Donald Trump recently cynically suggested Biden would do. Even the uplifting news of the Pfizer vaccine for the virus hasn’t persuaded him to diminish the severity of the pandemic. In sharp contrast to Trump, he is genuinely alarmed by the prospect of COVID-19 killing thousands more people.

 

Tug of Progressives

In terms of other domestic issues, Mr. Biden may have to walk a tightrope. He has been elected on the strength of his campaign-phase compromise with the progressive wing led by Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Now they will expect him to take firm stands on improving the Affordable Care Act so that more Americans are covered by its insurance, reduce students’ college-tuition debt, and offer free education to community college students throughout the whole country. A centrist by character and politics, Biden will have to be careful so that he is not sucked into an overly extremist agenda that might disillusion his other big block of supporters, the independents/moderates. The president-elect has been talking about an inclusive administration. I will personally like to see some forward-thinking Republican moderates in his cabinet, such as John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, and Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina as an active advisor on racial matters. It remains to be seen whether the progressive wing lets him construct his cabinet in his own image.

 

Trump’s roadblocks to transition

However, as things stand now, Joe Biden’s moving forward with the presidency has some serious roadblocks. Just how serious, the next few weeks will tell. Trump and the Republicans are in court challenging the Democrats’ victory, alleging without evidence of illegalities in the elections in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Most probably, there will be recounts in several of those states, almost certainly in Georgia where Biden is ahead with a little more than 10,000 votes. The prognosis is that Trump’s legal challenges will come to naught, and the recounts will fall in favor of Biden simply because of the still large enough difference in votes. Though within the stipulation of less than 1%, Trump lags behind by tens of thousands of votes in most states he is challenging. The specter of the federal Supreme Court, therefore, should be moot.

 

Still, the Trump challenge is a nuisance and a hindrance to a smooth transition that every rightful president-elect deserves. Trump, typical of his mean disposition, is completing a self-fulfilling fallacy that the election would have to be stolen for him to lose. He has been saying this for months. What is somewhat surprising is that the vast number of elected Republicans, all the way from Mitch McConnell to the recently elected freshmen in Congress have supported Trump’s legal challenge. Only four Republican senators have publicly acknowledged that Trump has lost. Personally, I think this is because of the more than 71 million votes that Trump has received in this election. It probably indicates to Republican elected officials that, come 2022, Trump’s coattails will still be strong, and they are going to need his support to retain their seats. If they abandon him now, and he continues to be the leader of the Republican party, he may abandon them then. 71 million are a lot of votes to ignore.

 

But Biden is strong, single-minded, and determined. I was heartened to see him sit at a small desk in an office in Wilmington, Delaware, working away at the transition. He has been denied access to the White House and its officials to facilitate the transition, something which all presidents-elect may rightfully expect within three days after the election is called. But no matter. Biden is going on full steam ahead.

 

Let’s hope for America’s sake that President Trump concedes soon, and governing goes on smoothly.

 

 

 Shivaji Sengupta

thesatime | The Southasian times

Shivaji Sengupta is a retired Professor of English at Boricua College, New York City. He has a Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, New York. He has been a regular contributor to The South Asian Times and to other newspapers. He is a member of the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee.

 

Dr. Sengupta would greatly appreciate responses to his columns. Please write to him at ssengupta11763@gmail.com, or directly reply to this newspaper at editor@test.skyurbis.com.

 

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