By Gwynne Dyer
Joe Biden is thrice-blessed. Not only did he win the Democratic nomination and then the presidential election, but as a result of the events of 6 January he takes office when the Republican opposition is in utter disarray and likely to stay that way for a long time. None of that was foreordained, or even very likely.
“Just days ago the media and the pundits had declared this candidacy dead,” Biden marvelled almost exactly a year ago after winning the South Carolina primary election by a landslide. It had been dead, too, until African-American voters in South Carolina gave him their overwhelming support.
It was the first primary he had won, and it put him back in the race. Two days later Biden won ten out of 14 states on Super Tuesday and practically wrapped the nomination up. But if South Carolina had scheduled its primary even a few days later, he would have gone into Super Tuesday as a ‘loser’, and probably been written off.
So he got lucky once, but it was a bad year for a Democrat to be running for the presidency. Donald Trump was rightly confident, because the US economy was in excellent shape, and incumbent presidents running for re-election when the economy is good almost always win.
Biden’s second stroke of luck was Covid-19. By March it was running wild in the United States, but Trump, aware that his re-election depended on a booming economy, avoiding taking any public health measures that would slow it down.
Trump’s refusal to back anti-covid measures like stay-at-home orders was driven more by electoral concerns than ideology: stall the economy and he could lose the election. But of course mass death will also stall the economy in the end, so he couldn’t win. He ended up with a crashed economy, 400,000 Covid deaths, and a lost election too.
And then, incredibly, he gave Biden another gift: the assault on the Capitol by his followers two weeks ago.
Biden was facing a grim time in office, with at least 70% of Republican voters and a majority of Republicans in Congress seduced by Trump’s Big Lie that he really won the election by a landslide, and that the Democrats had somehow ‘stolen’ it. It was Adolf Hitler who gave the technique that name, and it still works.
“In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility,” Hitler wrote in ‘Mein Kampf’ (My Struggle’), “because…in the primitive simplicity of their minds (the masses) more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”
That is what Biden faced only two weeks ago: a nightmare time in office with the ‘Big Lie’ rampant and Trump its proud purveyor. And then suddenly Trump, in his manic determination to hold onto power, sent his mob off to try a foredoomed coup in the ‘Temple of Democracy’, as American commentators pompously call it. End of game.
Trump is discredited even with a modest but significant proportion of his own base, and a growing number of Republican office-holders are in rebellion against the party’s subservience to the Tangerine Tyrant. Biden’s years in office will be enlivened by a vicious Republican civil war, quite likely ending in a permanent split on the American right.
Which will give Lucky Joe time to do some useful stuff.