Joe Biden is the most "elected" president in US history, having won not only the November 3 2020 election but also many court challenges which have reaffirmed the election result. The January 6 formal announcement of his election victory was marred by one of the worst acts of violence in Washington DC history, when the Capitol building was stormed by Trump supporters who were still challenging the result.
There will be a welcome change of tone under Biden. But many of the problems that were not solved by Trump, will not be solved by Biden either.
Two immediate issues result directly from the Trump legacy: alienated voters and the COVID crisis. Trump won more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016 and more votes than any previous Republican candidate (Biden also did extraordinarily well and so beat him). Trump had made politics interesting.
For a vast swathe of Americans who felt neglected by the inner-city, political-correctness-driven "woke" politicians, Trump gave them a voice. (Tragically he gave them a voice but few concrete reforms, such reforming the exploitative financial system).
There are now record sales of guns and ammunition and talk of a "civil war". Hopefully the reactions to the violence at the Capitol may dampen the risk of political violence. But Biden will have great difficulty unifying such a divided country.
On COVID, we now know from journalist Bob Woodward that Trump had been briefed on the severity of the risk very early in the crisis. He gambled that the predictions were wrong - and his inaction cost many lives.
Trump was haunted by the need for re-election (and most presidents do get a second term; one has to go back to George Bush 1988-92 for a president who failed to get that second term). Trump reasoned that no president has failed to get re-elected in a booming economy. He gambled on a weak COVID crisis and a continuation of the economic recovery (at least by Wall Street standards) from the 2008 global financial crisis.
Another fact is that every president since 1812 standing for re-election in a war has been re-elected. People rally around the flag. Trump could easily have talked up the "China virus", declared himself a "wartime president", and put the nation on a war-footing (which is basically what he did with the amazing development of the vaccine). I think he would have been re-elected if he had followed that strategy (especially given the lack of enthusiasm for Biden).
Biden's second immediate problem is therefore combatting COVID. The COVID crisis has highlighted the US's dysfunctional healthcare system. Trying to get the vaccines distributed will further illustrate that dysfunction.
Biden's third problem is what gave Trump his stunning 2016 victory: the resentment many people feel about the death of the "American dream". Trump was besotted by the growth of Wall Street but this was a mirage. That growth was due to financial engineering and the "financialization" of the US economy (bankers and other people who use money to make money – rather than actually make something of use).
In the real economy of agriculture, manufacturing and basic services (such as teaching and nursing) there has not been such a dramatic increase in wealth. For the first time in recent US history, a generation is coming into adulthood that does not expect to be earning more money that its parents. This generation is saddled with student debts, limited good employment opportunities, and the prospect of having to survive in the "gig" economy bouncing from one insecure job to another. The American dream has become an American nightmare.
The new right economic rationalist reforms that began under Ronald Reagan were continued by both Republican and Democrat presidents. The dominant economic paradigm (as it is in Australia) is that the "poor have too much money and the rich have too little". Hence we beat up on welfare recipients and give tax cuts to the rich. Many Americans live paycheque to paycheque, with limited savings.
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