There is a certain calm that has descended since the election, and for that we should be thankful.
We still have Trump to kick around for awhile, but fewer and fewer people are listening to what he says about coronavirus or the man on the moon. It’s good that Thanksgiving, especially this year, comes not long after Election Day. We all need a break.
Our president-elect is, so far, no savior outside the fact that he is not Trump, and our vice president-elect is scarier: How can someone whose presidential bid imploded like Kamala Harris’ did be ready to run the country? That Joe Biden got elected proved that anyone can be president in America a dozen years after Barack Obama proved that anyone can be president in America and four years after Trump proved that anyone can be president in America.
Maybe Biden, now that he’s reached the top, will molt and become a different person than the plagiarist who bought houses he couldn’t afford while a young politician and put Anita Hill in a crucible and voted for a racist crime bill and supported the Iraq War and backed No Child Left Behind before changing his mind and…
The list goes on. Biden reminds me of Hubert Humphrey, a New Dealer who did four Senate terms, ran twice for president before becoming vice president, then, after getting beat by Nixon in 1968 in a third presidential bid, kept trying. “Hubert Humphrey is a treacherous, gutless old ward heeler who should be put in a goddamn bottle and sent out with the Japanese current,” Hunter S. Thompson wrote in 1972, when the candidate’s fourth attempt at the White House fell short. Sixteen years later, Biden withdrew early from his first presidential campaign after passing off lines from Humphrey and others as his own. In 2008, Democratic voters snubbed Biden, who pulled out of the primary after landing nearly 1% of the vote in Iowa.
While thankful it didn’t happen, we shouldn’t forget how close Trump came to getting re-elected while Republicans, for once outspent, made laughingstock of blue-wave hopes in Congress and lesser races throughout the land. If Trump hadn’t been such a twit when it didn’t matter, he might have won states like Arizona, where the late John McCain was a draft dodger’s favorite target.
Coronavirus remains the big issue, and if Trump would leave the White House immediately in exchange for $1 billion, it’s a deal we should consider. Absent a vaccine and after nine months of battling a virus so stupid it doesn’t know where one state ends and another begins, the path to progress seems obvious if not easy. Assuming trends continue, we need to shut things down on a national level and install the mother of all relief measures for owners of bars, restaurants, theaters, concert halls and other gathering spots, as well as employees. Don’t give $1,200 checks to everyone with a pulse or bailouts to the Los Angeles Lakers, like we did last time. While many have suffered, fears of another Great Depression haven’t materialized, and the stock market has recovered. We can afford more relief, but, also, we should demand better than we got last spring, when things were happening so fast that getting it right was impossible.
After pressing reset, reopen rationally, with no wrist-slap fines for flagrant scofflaws: Break the rules and you’re closed, and if you got federal money to tide you through, what you got must be paid back pronto. Back businesses by ticketing maskless covidiots. Accounting firms, law offices and widget makers that keep employees working from home should be rewarded with tax breaks – offices are the second-most common place where contact tracing shows people have been exposed, behind bars and restaurants, according to the Sangamon County Department of Public Health.
States that don’t meet and maintain positivity targets should face loss of federal funds for parks, roads and other public projects while states that go beyond should be rewarded. Sturgis and South Dakota might think twice about allowing next year’s motorcycle rally if the feds whack transportation money and close Mount Rushmore.
America always has liked tough guys, so Biden shouldn’t be afraid to turn Trump when it comes to COVID – most Americans, already, are acting responsibly, and by the time litigation ended, proof of concept would be on his side. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who knows more about pandemics than most anyone, recently told The New York Times that masks and social distancing might be obsolete by next Thanksgiving, given vaccine developments. The economy, the doctor said, doesn’t have to shut down until then: We just have to be smarter, and increased testing capacity would help.
Old habits die hard in old men, and conquering coronavirus is tough for ward heelers. We’ll soon see whether Biden can bend wills through persuasion when possible and get results through other means if necessary to make next year’s holiday happier than the one we celebrate now.
Contract Bruce Rushton at