The Trump presidency comprised four years of bad behavior: bigotry, prejudice, racial and gender hatred, and a glaring disregard for the democratic principles that had guided the country—sometimes haphazardly—through its first 250 years.
And every morning brought a new infringement on those principles.
And then, overnight in November 2020, he was gone, and proponents of our democracy let out a collective sigh. But in truth, if we had been living under the reign of Donald Trump from 2017 to 2021, we were now living in his presidency. All the appointments, the judgeships, and the so-called lower-level functionaries whose names had meant nothing were now running the country.
Trump himself had been—continues to be—an ineffectual buffoon whose legislative victories were sparse. In many ways, John McCain's famous "thumbs down" defined the Trump years in which he would infuriate his detractors and delight his supporters with inane comments and abrasive tweets, but accomplish very little.
But for those four years, he was omnipresent, and his party exploited that ego and ignorance while he curled up inside our psyches and lived off our obsession.
But this is not about history or even abnormal psychology; this is about current events.
With Trump in the White House, there was something visceral we experienced daily, even though, up until the pandemic, his effect on our daily lives was minimal. We have nothing visceral with Biden; instead, we have inflation, gas prices, war in Ukraine, a virulent attack on women, threats to transgender people, an enfeebled EPA, and fears that we will soon lose the most basic human rights, even something as innocuous as family planning. Biden is not a curse hovering over the country, but the aftereffects of the Biden election have become similarly dreadful curses.
I understand that presidential powers provide Biden with very few strategies to extricate us from this funk, but just as Trump antagonized us with very little that was tangible, Biden can behave similarly. Maybe a few prime-time diatribes about how we can go forward after the dissolution of Roe, of what the Supreme Court's recent EPA decision means for all of us, and assurances that gay marriage and transgender rights will be preserved. Let him call out the Supreme Court for what it is—a political arm of the new Evangelical Party—and let him remind Americans that the ongoing failures of the legislative branch have ceded all the power to that court. Of course we know it's true, but we need to hear it again and again: electing the right people can fix this.
Let him call out Manchin and Sinema and lay out plainly their roles in the packing of the radical Supreme Court as well as the approaching climate disaster. (Yes you, Joe Manchin, King of Coal.) Never mind RINOs, point out that these DINOs have disgraced their party. And he can stop handling AOC and every other jaded egotist with kid gloves because she's a "fellow Democrat." She and her ilk have been masters of self-aggrandizement while representing to every middle-of-the-road Republican (and many Democrats) why her party is brimming with malcontents and starry-eyed idealists.
In short, Biden needs to start burning bridges, and his vice-president needs to carry along the accelerant. The country needs a flaming pep talk from an angry president who is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore.
I was never a fan of Ronald Reagan, but his speech after the Challenger disaster rallied a disconsolate nation. Clinton after Oklahoma City, "W" after 9/11—they knew what to say when there was nothing to say other than we're all in this together and we'll get past it. There was no plan—there were words. And we need those words now.
And as Democrats, we must face something else. If Joe Biden is still deceived by some figment of the Senate he used to know—by some long-since-vanished illusion of camaraderie on Capitol Hill, then he must step down, turn the reins over to Kamala Harris, and make certain that she selects a dynamic and forceful vice-president who can challenge the Republicans in 2024 and rally the country today. If Biden can take one for the team, she can too. The stakes are that high.
America is not drifting, but we have the appearance of drifting, and appearances matter. Joe Biden can still insert himself into our often malleable psyches, but if he refuses—or simply can't—then we need to find a Democrat who can.
We can always build new bridges, maybe even build them back better.