Bhaskar Sunkara, The Guardian, November 10, 2020
Joe Biden has defeated Donald Trump. Millions across the country are applauding the downfall of a president who has been mendacious in his public communications, loathsome in his personal conduct, and utterly inept in his handling of a pandemic that has killed 230,000 Americans.
Amid the celebration, however, there should be nagging fear. Biden ran largely on the idea that he will be a return to the normalcy of the Obama years. But if he governs as a “normal” Democrat, it won’t be long before we have to deal with the next Donald Trump.
The real Trump buried himself in blunders and couldn’t deliver on campaign promises to voters. Instead of saving manufacturing jobs and protecting, as he pledged, “the jobs, wages and wellbeing of American workers before any other consideration”, the Trump administration eliminated paid overtime rules, created tax cuts for the rich and lost 740,000 manufacturing positions this year alone.
Yet a different Donald Trump might have handled the coronavirus pandemic competently and launched an ambitious infrastructure and jobs program capable of improving the lives of millions of people. Without actually challenging oligarchs and big business interests, this alternate-reality Trump might have been able to effectively marry economic populism with xenophobia, the same formula that has propelled rightwing authoritarians to power elsewhere in the world. A different Trump might have even managed to win over enough voters who typically vote for Democrats, including black and brown voters, to expand his base into one capable of winning the popular vote.
As bad as the last four years have been, we’ve been lucky to get the actual – bumbling – Trump, as opposed to a more effective politician, an American Narendra Modi or Jair Bolsonaro.
Biden won simply because of how unpopular Trump is. Democrats will need to offer Americans something different – a type of politics that can activate irregular working-class voters and deliver on bread-and-butter economic issues – if they’re to create a stable and responsive government.