Because of that, Emanuel said, he’d always believed the presidency imbued anybody who inhabited it with a sense of stewardship. But, he added, “we have found the one person who is immune to all of that moral, ethical, professional responsibility for the American project.”
And it would be Biden’s awful luck to take the baton — or, rather, wrest it — from the talons of that tyrant. Lame-duck Trump would be foul. In word and deed, he’d booby-trap the presidency for Biden and then, after Biden’s inauguration, reject former presidents’ tradition of reticence to bellow at Biden and try to undermine him.
Look at just the past few days. Knowing that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to vote by mail, Trump falsely claimed (again) that ballots received after Election Day, even if they’re in perfect accordance with a state’s requirement of a postmark by Election Day, are illegitimate. He applauded supporters of his who swarmed around and trapped a Biden-Harris campaign bus.
Those ruffians wouldn’t accept his defeat or Biden’s authority serenely. “It’s different this time, because of their willingness to excuse the shattering of norms that are so central to democracy in America and the willingness of many of them to seek to intimidate, or prevent political expression from, their fellow Americans,” said Kori Schake, the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
Biden would also confront a restive crew in his own party. If Democrats controlled the Senate, their fury during Trump’s presidency would transform into an insistence on any or all of the following: sweeping action to address climate change; sweeping action to expand health insurance; the sweeping aside of the filibuster; the expansion of the Supreme Court; an immigration overhaul; the placement of high-profile progressives in high-profile cabinet slots; the destruction of what stretches of the border wall Trump managed to construct; and the investigation and even prosecution of his henchmen.
Right now the disparate parts of the Democratic coalition are deceptively united in their revulsion for Trump, a Super Glue that binds even anticapitalist college students and rich Republicans in the Never Trump brigade. But if Trump is ousted, the glue dissolves, laying bare the distance between Biden and many younger Democrats.
He’s given to compromise and consensus, but Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who’s currently on the cover of Vanity Fair, and other stars in the Democratic Party take a less measured approach. “It’s going to be like a bunch of punk rockers showing up at a Neil Diamond concert,” Antonia Ferrier, a former aide to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, told me.