January 20, 2025
On the eve of the inauguration of our next President, it seems like a good time to look back on the history of the previous administration.
Joe Biden swept into power with a convincing victory in the election of 2020. His message of “I’m not Trump” resounded with the electorate so dramatically that he even won several traditionally red states, such as Georgia and Texas. This blue tide swept down-ballot as well, with Democrats winning a substantial majority in the Senate, controlling 55 seats by the time the votes were all counted. They also padded their majority in the House.
Trump didn’t take the news well. He tried to claim massive vote fraud, but the defeat was so substantial that even his supporters in the Senate, the judiciary, and the military did not back him up. After a few weeks of increasingly erratic behavior, and facing removal under the 25th Amendment, he resigned. Placeholder President Pence issued a blanket pardon, covering all potential federal charges. The state of New York promptly filed a batch of indictments under state law against Trump, several of his family members, and other administration insiders. Trump responded by fleeing to exile in Turkey.
While most new administrations receive a honeymoon period, where they get easy confirmation of their cabinet appointments, easy legislative victories, and high approval ratings; this was not to be the case for Biden. His coalition, based solely on non-Trumpism, dissolved quickly. The anti-Trump Republicans soon abandoned Biden and attempted to regain control over the tattered remnants of the Republican Party. Progressives, who only reluctantly supported Biden in the General Election, soon soured on the new administration as his Cabinet appointments were a group of billionaires, lobbyists, and failed conservadem presidential candidates. Even many of Biden’s most adamant supporters during the campaign declared victory, patted themselves on the back for their glorious achievement of “saving democracy”, and tuned out politics.
The Biden Administration began not with a bang, but a whimper. Even with control of both houses of the legislature and the Presidency, legislative accomplishments were few, far between, and small. A humble, one-time Covid relief/stimulus package passed. The new vaccines were distributed at no cost to the people. The Covid crisis ebbed. The US rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, and passed modest support for alternative energy development.
Biden’s legislative agenda was modest, and it was met with stonewalling from the right and derision from the left for its inadequacy for dealing with major problems. Biden’s attempt to raise the minimum wage to $10 went nowhere. Similarly, his attempts to modify the Affordable Care Act ran into opposition from all sides except the insurance companies.
Immigrant children were returned to their families, but deportations continued unabated. DREAMers were protected, but hardly anyone else was. Perpetual war in the Middle East and Afghanistan continued, even accelerated. Biden supported another failed coup in Venezuela.
The Democrats did little or nothing to address the fundamental problems facing the nation. There was no court expansion. There was no filibuster reform. There was no substantial campaign finance reform. There was no comprehensive immigration reform. Attempts to mitigate the climate crisis were timid and inadequate. Police continued to brutalize and kill with impunity.
But Biden seemed unconcerned, as if his goal all along was to restore partisan gridlock.
In the 2022 midterm election primaries, both parties’ factional divides were on display. While the Republicans eventually unified behind a slate of arch-conservative, but not explicitly racist, and not completely insane candidates, Democrats waged a civil war between the corporate conservadems and the progressive wing. The progressives continued to chip away at the corporate dominance of the party, winning several key House races, but the Senate candidates were still largely “moderate”, business-friendly nominees. In the General, the corporate candidates fared poorly, and the progressives fared well. By the time the dust settled, the Senate was evenly split at 50-50, and the Democrats’ majority in the House, while slightly smaller, was radicalized.
2023 was marked by continued partisan gridlock. While the climate crisis and economic crises worsened, the federal government lacked the leadership, resolve, and votes to successfully address any of the problems in a substantive manner. Biden suffered a serious stroke and resigned for health reasons, leaving Harris as the party’s standard-bearer.
Harris tried to re-create the Obama formula: talking like a progressive while governing like a corporatist. This formula worked in the primaries, since sitting Presidents always always always win their Party’s nomination. But it didn’t work in the General, as Harris was perceived as a two-faced phony who said one thing and acted in a completely different way.
All hail our new fearless leader, Tom Cotton.