Things could get even crazier under Biden.
Joe Biden enjoys a double-digit lead over incumbent President Donald Trump because he promises a return to normalcy -- not the platonic ideal of objective normalcy in a country that doesn't torture or spy on its citizens or let them starve because their coding chops are a few years out of date. Americans desperately want to resume "normal" political life as Americans knew it before the last four years of manic presidential tweetstorms, authoritarian strongman antics and pandemic pandemonium. As Michigan voter Katybeth Davis told the Guardian, "I just want it to be over with. I really do."
Be careful what you wish for. Things could get even crazier under Biden.
Even though it's only a few weeks away, I am hesitant to call the election. Biden has a huge lead in the polls, but Trump has an ace in the hole: an unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which will run predominantly Democratic and provide attractive targets for Republican attorneys to drag out state vote counts past the Dec. 14 Electoral College certification deadline, which would trigger the obscure 12th Amendment scenario where 50 states each get one vote for president in the next House of Representatives, in which case Trump would win even if Biden were to win the popular vote by a lot.
But let's assume Biden prevails. Let's say it's a blue-wave election and the Democrats expand their majority in the House and take control of the Senate. What happens next? Revolution, maybe.
Revolution would certainly be likelier under Biden than under Trump.
One of history's least-discussed ironies is a counterintuitive pattern: It is not the vicious tyrants who are overthrown by angry mobs but well-meaning liberal reformers who promise to fix a broken system and fall short of expectations.
A Biden administration would face several daunting existential challenges. Unlike former President Barack Obama, whose high approval rating at inauguration prolonged his political honeymoon into his second year, Biden will enjoy little to no support from Republican voters or elected representatives. Progressives will pressure him from the left. Worse, he will inherit problems that have been neglected or exacerbated for so long that no solution will be able to come fast enough.
A president who will have achieved victory by campaigning against his predecessor's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic will be expected to quickly turn around the ongoing medical and economic disasters with lightning-quick results. Like Obama, Biden has promised to add a "public option" to the Affordable Care Act. He'll need to do that right away. That's only the beginning: The ACA will collapse unless Congress vastly increases premium subsidies to middle-class patients and orders national Medicaid expansion.
The $600-a-week supplemental unemployment benefits that both parties allowed to expire during the summer will have to be replaced in some form. There will need to be meaningful broad-based relief for distressed renters and homeowners facing eviction or foreclosure. Without an infusion of cash, millions of people who formerly belonged to the middle and working classes will become homeless, adding to social and political instability. Billions will have to be pumped into the economy in the form of direct stimulus checks to every man, woman and child. The alternative is economic collapse.
The presidency, of course, is about more than policy. Many Americans who believed in exceptionalism a few years ago are wondering aloud whether the U.S. is literally over and done. During times of crisis, leaders are called upon to reassure citizens that a wise and steady hand is at the helm and that a team of intelligent and innovative advisors is running the show behind the scenes.