What will happen in post-Trump America under Joe Biden? All we know for sure is that Biden's personality is starkly different from Donald Trump's. (Note: This essay does not consider Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, because the focus is Biden's long national history). We know enough to hope for certain outcomes. Biden will not be the open troublemaker his opponent has been. Trump created his base when he called Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "drug dealers." Biden will return us to the diplomatic past, when marginalized people were marginalized amidst showers of money and smiles, rather than the gratifying insults many crave.
But aside from a return to courtesy, what will come of the grand objectives embraced by Biden's Democratic Party? What will Biden do in the face of growing income inequality? Racial tensions? Increasingly open corruption in government? Deterioration of foreign relations?
We can project how President Biden will address these issues by reviewing how he and his party addressed them in the eight years of the Obama administration, when Biden was vice president.
Economic policy, race relations and corruption were definitively addressed by the Obama administration in the lead-up to and aftermath of the 2009 "Great Recession." Democrats, including Biden and Obama (as well as both Clintons) enabled the collapse by backing financial rules that permitted expansion of debt which, when enhanced with deceptive sales practices, made bankers rich while undermining mortgage holders. Biden supported paying off the bankers who caused and then profited from the collapse, instead of charging them with fraud and sending them to prison, while he supported sending thousands of black men to long prison terms for using crack. Regarding economic and racial policy, Biden will likely be a passive Trump.In foreign policy, over eight years the Obama administration authorized an estimated 540 drone strikes all over the Middle East and Africa that killed thousands of civilians and laid the groundwork for much current hatred of the US. None of these strikes was in the service of a declared war.
There are examples of Democratic malfeasance in public education, a sector that is solidly in the Democratic camp. The Obama administration promoted the Common Core Standards, strong-arming school districts nationwide into adopting them. Common Core was an $11 billion coup for publishers, but it was not needed in many states, such as California. The rush to throw out California's previous world-class standards and implement Common Core, at a cost to the state of $1.5 billion, destroyed the testing baseline and thus the validity of California's standardized testing for at least four years, and earned an additional fortune for publishing and testing companies that were paid to clean-up and cover-up the mess they had created.
The Democrats haven't had to worry about maintaining a virtuous image, however. They are much better than the GOP at appearing squeaky clean, partly because their deceit tends to be less hindered by ideology than Republican deceit.
Democrats receive their biggest assist in image control from the media. Try finding a newspaper in California that reported the Common Core fiasco. The same selective reporting has obtained in foreign policy. On January 20, 2009, the day of Obama's first inaugural address, a U.S. drone strike hit an Afghan wedding party, killing the bride and groom and 40 family members, not a militant among them. The story earned one paragraph on the bottom of page 12 in the Los Angeles Times, which never reported on it again. Obama did not mention the strike in his speech or ever, and continued with his own strikes, killing more civilians than Bush had. Each strike was duly reported somewhere in the depths of the L.A. Times, while on the front page Obama might be dedicating an elementary school.
In addition to media support, Democrats enjoyed a free ride when the GOP embraced the Tea Party, a minority faction representing the extreme right wing of the GOP and comprising much of Trump's current base. The Tea Party maintained that evil people live near oceans, that they are hedonists and that God hates them. The Tea Party standard bearer was former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, one of whose pronouncements was: "Contraception turns sex into mere pleasure." The evil people who live near oceans (and some lakes) don't like ideas like that because people who live near oceans are hedonists who think pleasure is good. The Democrats, who represent people who live near oceans, had merely to compare themselves to the Tea Party/GOP to appear both squeaky clean and hedonistic.
Let's not forget Trump himself, whose outsized egregious behaviour created a foil enabling the uninspiring Biden to slip into the presidency. If Trump evolves into a shadowy underworld figure who can be blamed for things, the benefit to Biden and his party will be ongoing.
So the question, "What happens after Trump?" cannot be answered just by saying, "President Biden happens after Trump," because President Biden will, in many ways, be a continuation of President Trump. The main differences will be in direction of money and avoidance of inflammatory rhetoric. The beneficiaries will include people who live near oceans, which I can't complain about since I live near an ocean, and it will be a relief to hear less inflammatory language, but what else will be different? Will the Democratic party be up to the task of figuring out this moment in history? Or will we need new parties to tackle things in different ways?