The 2020 general election has been called by the Associated Press and mathematically, Joseph R. Biden Jr. will be the 46th President of the United States on Jan. 20 at noon. That is not up for debate, regardless of what you might think. However, the fault in our stars is not magically solved by the defeat of an authoritarian fascist. Our problems run far deeper than that.
Firstly, Joe Biden is not some white knight running in to save us all from a dictator. He’s a politician just as fallible as anyone else. Biden, much like of the currently elected democratic party, is a centrist. We know this by his recent rhetoric of “unity” and “reaching across the aisle.” This narrative is problematic on two fronts. Biden’s refusal to demean the widespread base of the modern republican party is going to cause the same issues that have been plaguing government since the presidency of George W. Bush. Until Biden and the democrats take republicans to school on their dependance on conspiracy, falsehoods, and obstructionism, progress will be harpooned in favor of political civility, which to be clear currently elected republicans have no interest in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will continue to maintain complete obstruction until the democrats go on the offensive.
The other facet of Biden’s approach to “civil politics” is an active demeaning of the progressive wing of the democratic party. He is not even remotely alone in this disdain. He and other democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, etc. are pushing this narrative from the right that progressives and progressive policies nearly cost Joe Biden the election. On the contrary, progressives won the election for Biden. Progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Pramila Jayapal, Ayanna Presley, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren did the work of getting traditionally disenfranchised voters registered and fired up about voting. Additionally, the democratic party lost seats in the House of Representatives which should have been a landslide victory. They lost the seats because of performative centrism.
Of course, we must wrestle with the reality that Donald Trump’s particular brand of politics is not an isolated incident, nor will it go away now that he is no longer president. Trump has already mulled a potential run in 2024 and here’s the grim reality: it will be another disgustingly close election if he makes it all the way to the ticket. Trump’s ascent as the symbol of modern conservatism cannot be solely attributed to him. The evolution of the modern republican party began with former Congressman Newt Gingrich starting the slow descent into radical obstructionism even if that obstructionism hurts the American people. Until recently, this radicalization came and went in movements from the judicial-congressional crisis staved off by the Gang of 14 Compromise in the Bush years to the rise and redistribution of the Tea Party Movement throughout political life. Fox News only exacerbated these movements propelling far-right talking points about birtherism related to former President Barack Obama and more recently Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and also projecting riling up their base to refuse any positive action by the democratic party even if that action would help them. Donald Trump’s galvanization of the modern republican base as a practical death cult who only answer to the leader has created a multitude of miniature Trumps in two varieties: charismatic conspiracy wackjobs and less charismatic but far more politically volatile Trump sycophants. These include the likes of Madison Cawthorne, Tom Cotton, Tommy Tuberville, Marjorie Taylor-Green, Matt Gaetz, etc.
Democracy may have received an anabolic steroid with the defeat of Donald Trump after a single term, but our country is far from out of the woods. The best thing we can do for our democracy is completely abolish the concept of political disengagement. Politics is not some imaginary concept that we can divorce ourselves from in polite conversation. Politics affects our everyday lives. Disengaging from politics is how a democracy dies. It is what bad faith actors want you to do. If you are unengaged, that means you are not paying attention while they commit blatant human rights violations against racial minorities, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities, as well as dismantling programs that create a better and more robust society. Politics does not end with elections. Politics doesn’t end. Period.