President-elect Joe Biden, merely by speaking about two national crises of historic magnitude (the economy and the pandemic), reminded us that even in his final weeks in office, President Trump prefers to focus on insane conspiracies meant to overturn a democratic election rather than on imminent threats to Americans’ lives and livelihoods.
At a Friday news conference, the relaxed and calm incoming president spoke to the country. “Earlier today, the November jobs report was released,” he said. “It’s a grim report. It shows an economy that is stalling.” The current president did not bother to address it. Biden recognized that “it’s deeply troubling that last month’s drop in overall unemployment [to 6.7 percent] was driven by people who were dropping out of the labor market altogether. … Over the last three months, 2.3 million more people are in long-term unemployment — by far the largest increase on record.” The economy fell about 224,000 jobs short of expectations.
Biden encouraged lawmakers to pass a compromise stimulus bill and promised that more help is on the way. (“Americans need help, and they need it now, and they’ll need more come early next year.”) The current president was nowhere to be seen. While clinging to office and to his delusions, Trump has abdicated responsibility and declined to keep up the pretense he is governing.
As for the COVID-19 vaccine, Biden let on that the Trump administration has no plan to get Americans vaccinated. “There is no detailed plan that we’ve seen, anyway, as to how you get the vaccine out of a container, into an injection syringe, into somebody’s arm,” Biden told the media. “It’s going to be very difficult for that to be done, and it’s a very expensive proposition. … There’s a lot more that has to be done.”
What has the current administration been doing to facilitate vaccinations? Next to nothing, apparently. Biden’s prediction of 200,000-plus more deaths by the end of the year may be horrifyingly accurate.
Trump has been consumed not with the dual threats of a worsening economic recession and the pandemic but with denying his defeat. Court after court in more than 40 cases rejected his baseless accusations of fraud. In Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court delivered a brutal verdict on the attempt to overthrow the election:
Trump lost cases in Nevada, Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona and Georgia, as well. That was just on Friday. The losses stretch as far as the eye can see. (On a different topic, a federal court eviscerated his attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and ordered the Department of Homeland Security to continue receiving first-time applications.)
Trump, AWOL from the disasters he helped bring about through denial and incompetence, now receives regular denunciations from federal and state judges, appointed by both parties (and, in one case, Trump-appointed.) By any standard, he is facing repeated humiliation in the courts.
Aside from the courts that he amply stocked with right-wing judges, Republicans can point to no benefit derived from his four years in office but plenty of damage. Trump leaves behind a dumpster fire: a net loss of more than 3 million jobs and hundreds of thousands of dead Americans. (Next up: Abuse of his pardon powers as he considers get-of-jail-for-whatever-we-did cards for himself, his family and his cronies.)
Republicans’ political fortunes have fared no better. They began 2017 with the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress; they leave with only the possibility of a narrow majority in the Senate. Their base is more crazed and alienated than ever before. To the very end, most Republican members of Congress adhered to their reputations as spineless enablers of a destructive, racist and utterly incompetent president. A Post survey of Republicans in Congress found that a mere 27 of 249 acknowledged Biden’s victory. The vast majority were too cowardly to give a definitive answer.
No longer animated by a positive vision or policy ideas, the GOP is now simply a cauldron of writhing resentment and paranoia — a party that survives by spinning a web of lies and terrifying its own voters.
Our only hope is that the Republicans who remain in Congress will be as ineffectual in obstructing progress as they and their defeated president were in governing.