So, have a good life
Did... things just turn around? There are many challenges ahead, but the week is ending in a hopeful place
Good evening. Voting in the 2020 presidential election ended 80 days ago. The inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., the forty-sixth president of the United States, happened two days ago. The American interregnum is over.
Your parting thoughts
It’s quiet this Friday afternoon, or at least it is where I am. But there is something else happening. With President Joe Biden now sleeping in the White House, and with the former President both no longer in a position to throw the world into chaos and indeed still banned from his social media accounts, there is a notable quality to the public atmosphere. It’s different than simply “quiet.” There is an absence of noise. Journalist Hayes Brown put it best:
With a competent leader at the helm, the last four years is already taking on the patina of a fever dream from which we all barely awoke. Well, not quite all- I do find myself mourning the many who did not make it through Wednesday, and the many more who will still be lost due to the machinations of the prior White House. But it already feels as if our darkest days may be behind us- at least for now.
We can hope so, anyway. And a reasonably hopeful lot you are- at least according to the survey we sent in the last issue of this newsletter. We asked a number of questions, from your favorite aspect of the inauguration to your views on the near term political future to your greatest hopes for the Biden administration. Below, we chronicle your responses.
What was your favorite part of the inauguration?
Even though the makeup of the American Interregnum readership skews left, you were split on some questions. But you agreed on one thing by an overwhelming majority. We asked, “What was your favorite part of the inauguration?” AMANDA GORMAN, came the thunderous response. Indeed, her poem made the 22-year-old, the youngest-ever inaugural poet, an instant sensation. And it deserves a reprise:
Will the Senate end the filibuster?
Perhaps because you don’t expect Mitch McConnell to get outfoxed, or because you think it would be imprudent for Democrats to change a rule that could come back and bite them, by a narrow margin, readers expect the filibuster to remain intact. (Personally, I side with the progressives who say, nuke the filibuster and never look back- it’s time to get some things done.)
Will the pandemic be under control by September 1st?
You are more pessimistic about the prospect of getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control before Labor Day, presumably when many Americans would have hoped to return to a normal routine at work and school. Perhaps you are concerned about the vaccine rollout. Or perhaps you heard Anthony Fauci say the vaccine appears to be less effective against some new strains.
In 2022, will House Democrats gain seats, lose seats but keep the majority, or lose seats and lose the majority?
You are very optimistic about the Democrats’ chances to build on the current majority, which would be counter to typical expectations that the party winning the presidency loses seats in the following midterm election. They had better, says Ezra Klein in The New York Times: “This is the responsibility the Democratic majority must bear: If they fail or falter, they will open the door for Trumpism or something like it to return, and there is every reason to believe it will be far worse next time. To stop it, Democrats need to reimagine their role. They cannot merely defend the political system. They must rebuild it.”
Do you expect more or less political violence in the next six months?
Sadly, the majority of you anticipate more political violence in the months ahead. And for good reason. “With the enthusiastic help of his party, Trump spent four years convincing his followers that the American political system is irredeemably corrupt and any election that does not produce the result they want is fraudulent by definition. Once they accepted that belief, Trump’s defeat would inevitably produce violence, as at least some of them conclude that ordinary politics — voting, organizing, lobbying, peaceful protest — will never give them what they want, and violence is the only alternative,” wrote Paul Waldman in The Washington Post. “We’ve only begun to feel the consequences.” Luckily, the Biden administration is taking this seriously. Here is Press Secretary Jen Psaki today:
Will the Republican Party remain the party of Trump, fracture or split, or reinvent itself?
You believe by a wide margin that the Republican party is going to go through some things, possibly fracturing or splitting in the post-Trump period. Perhaps that is because you perceive that “strategy of white grievance” may cause substantial turmoil. “In the past decade, the GOP has dropped any pretense of trying to appeal to a majority of Americans. Instead, recognizing that the structure of America’s political institutions diminishes the influence of urban areas, young Americans, and voters of color, it caters to a conservative white minority that is drastically overrepresented in the Electoral College, the Senate, and gerrymandered legislative districts,” says Ari Berman in Mother Jones. Will the party be content to follow this strategy, and indeed to indulge the darker forces that will back it up with violence, or will some Republicans seek a new path?
When will Donald Trump host his next campaign rally?
A majority believes we haven’t heard the last of Donald Trump, and that he will host a campaign rally before the summer. Thankfully there are no signs of his reemergence quite yet. “So, have a good life,” Trump memorably (and to my ear, hilariously) said at his final speech on the tarmac before departing for Mar-a-Lago. Maybe we’ll get lucky and that was indeed the last word.
Your biggest concerns going forward
In our open-ended question about your biggest concerns going forward, you had three key ones: COVID-19, right-wing violence, and climate change. “That the extreme right, ever more desperate for attention and validation, will resort to more frequent and more destructive acts of violence against America,” wrote one respondent. “Getting the pandemic under control,” wrote another. And many are concerned our politics are broken because of a right wing that no longer wishes to play by the rules. “Republicans do not want democracy.”
Your greatest hopes for the Biden administration
Despite the challenges you are hopeful. Many of you have a low bar- get the pandemic under control, stay off the front page every day, and try to be competent. But you shared many hopes for civility, and a restoration of the common interest. Here are a few verbatims:
“I hope that Biden can heal the divisions within the country.”
“That they get the pandemic under control while lessening the division & hatred in the country.”
“I hope for Biden to bring the country together and come up with a way to help the angry people on the far right who feel they've been forgotten.”
“That Joe governs as a progressive and doesn't waste time trying to be bipartisan with a bunch of dishonest power hungry people who want him to fail.”
“That we can once again be predictable and stable. I have the audacity to hope for good outcomes in climate change, health care, economy, and of course COVID defeat and societal recovery. But most of all, I just want some sanity, like the grown-ups really are in charge.”
“Making progress on racism, at least getting a majority of whites to admit to white privilege and that it is not fair.”
“That he can achieve at least some of what he wants to -- like extending affordable health care to all Americans, enact a voting rights act that puts to rest efforts to stifle participation, achieve immigration reform and set us on the path to tame climate change.”
“That through the agency of Deb Haaland leading the Department of Interior, Native issues will be addressed in a substantial, material, long-lasting (healing) way and that non-Natives' relationship with the land and biodiversity will thereby be restored to a central place in our daily lives.”
“Repair and create legislation that will strengthen our democracy.”
“Restoration of civic responsibility, that most Americans recognize rights come with duties & responsibilities to each other”
“Significant steps toward combatting climate change.’
What’s next for American Interregnum?
We asked you this question as well- and 80% of you said you’d like to see the newsletter continue in some form (19% weren’t sure, and only 1% have had enough). So, we are going to give some thought to what to do next. We won’t continue with our thrice weekly posts, but we may extend our effort here, for instance, to cover the Senate trial. And, we may re-orient the newsletter to a broader topical focus. Do let us know by reply what you’d like to see happen next.
(As a matter of convenience, if you’d like to jump off this train now, you can always manage your subscription preferences by looking to the bottom of this email).
It’s been a privilege to try to help you sort through the past three months- some of the most consequential in our history. And I want to thank Melissa and Greg- who put an enormous effort into this labor of love. We’ve posted nearly sixty times since September- when we set out “to collect and comment on the scenarios, news, ideas and events that will shape the transition period.” We’re glad it’s been valuable to you- for me, it’s been a way to process the news and get feedback from a helpful audience.
We thank you. In the parting words of Donald Trump: “So, have a good life.”
The Bernie Memes Won’t Stop
Long after you’ve forgotten most aspects of the inauguration, apart from Amanda Gorman, it seems pretty clear people will still be making memes out of Bernie Sanders’ mittened appearance on a folding chair. It was the levity we all needed- though some are looking for deeper meaning. Anyway, enjoy a meme of the meme:
American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the issues and ideas that will define the Presidential transition period from Nov. 3, 2020, through — hallelujah! — Jan. 22, 2021, and maybe a tad longer. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Have questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.