The Final Countdown

Good evening! Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In less than 48 hours, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be the President and Vice President of the United States. If you want to count down the hours, minutes, and seconds I’ve got you.

The Topline

We’ve reached the penultimate edition of American Interregnum. 

When Justin first approached Greg and me about doing this newsletter, we all agreed on two principles: nothing about this transition period would be normal, and neither one of us could predict what would actually happen. This project appealed to me because it was so unpredictable. And on that front, this project has delivered. (I won’t list the ways since we all just lived through them!)

But mercifully, this transition period is coming to an end. And as difficult as it can be to look forward right now that’s what I want to do today. American democracy might be hanging on by a thread but as of right now we have kept the republic. We have elected a President and congressional majorities who are committed to keeping it as well. We can’t go back to normal but we can reestablish and strengthen democratic norms. We can do better. 

Joe Biden brings empathy and humanity back to the presidency. Adam Serwer correctly and succinctly summed up the Trump Administration thusly: “The Cruelty Is the Point.” Cruelty was the defining quality of the Trump era. It was reflected in policy, Trump’s base of support, and President Trump’s own casual cruelty and indifference. It is a stark contrast to Joe Biden, a man whose life and career have been defined by monumental grief and his choice to keep serving America in the face of that. Come Wednesday, America will have a leader who understands the grief so many Americans are experiencing right now as we approach the staggering milestone of 500,000 dead from the coronavirus pandemic. After a four year vacuum of moral leadership from the White House, this will be a welcome change. 

The Biden Administration is already hitting the ground running with policies and proposed legislation that are both more empathetic and more grounded in reality. (Yes, I know they’re not everything progressives like myself want. But I’ll take that debate over our current shitshow any day.) The Biden Administration’s plans for the first 100 days are ambitious and include rejoining the Paris climate accord, repealing the Muslim travel ban, a mask mandate for Federal buildings, and extending restrictions on evictions and foreclosures.

Biden’s stimulus plan, which he has called a “down payment,” includes more direct cash payments, an increased federal minimum wage, supplemented unemployment insurance, expanded paid leave, and aid for vaccinations, cities and states, and schools. A comprehensive Immigration bill is also planned.

One final thought: most Americans are more than ready to move forward, too. Trump’s approval rating is at a historic low and hovers close to the crazification factor. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve understandably focused a lot on the Trump supporters who either attempted a coup against the U.S. government or supported that coup. They are terrifying — but they are not the majority. Most Americans do not want the chaos to continue. They want a president they don’t have to think about 20 times a day, and for this pandemic to be over sooner rather than later. Joe Biden can deliver on both. 

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Driving the Conversation 

The country’s best female political reporters go on the record about what it was really like covering Trump’s America.

“Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and I’m celebrating it in a blue Georgia that just elected its first Black U.S. senator. For just over 15 years, Raphael Warnock had been the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church—MLK’s church. I would have bet good money that Kelly Loeffler would still be representing the Peach State in the Senate in 2021. I guess it was the constant airing of Loeffler-approved “too radical for Georgia” attack ads—ads that often attacked the Black church, or rather Warnock’s “too radical” sermons delivered at his church...MLK’s church.

“King was too radical for Georgia. He was too radical for America. King was a God-fearing Christian who white people today love to remember as a palatable colorblind negro who—based on the only passage of the “I Have a Dream” speech they tend to cite—judged people only by the content of their character. But he wasn’t murdered for being colorblind; he was murdered for seeing Black people as equal to white people. He was a man willing to die if it meant Black people would move even an inch further towards the mountaintop. America, at the time, despised him for it.”

“Dominick McGee didn’t enter the capitol during the siege on Jan. 6. He was on the grounds when the mob of Donald Trump supporters broke past police barricades and began smashing windows. But he turned around, heading back to his hotel. Property destruction wasn’t part of his plan. Plus, his phone had died, ending his Facebook live video midstream. He needed to find a charger. After all, Facebook was a big part of why he was in Washington in the first place.

“Mr. McGgee is 26, a soft-spoken college student and an army veteran from Augusta, ga. Look at his Facebook activity today, and you’ll find a stream of pro-trump fanfare and conspiracy theories.”

“The aftermath of that attack now sets the stage for a political reckoning between Washington and Silicon Valley, as long-simmering frustrations with Facebook, Google, Twitter and their digital peers threaten to unleash the most aggressive regulatory assault against the tech industry in its history. On the eve of his inauguration, Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress are pledging to take aim at the country’s largest social media platforms out of concern that they imperil the very fabric of American democracy — and the billions of people who use these digital services every day.”

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Biden Hires and Appointments 

There have been quite a few staffing and nomination announcements over the long weekend. I’m especially excited that Rohit Chopra has been tapped to run the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Links to releases from the Biden Transition website covering the full array of announcements are below.

Your Moment of Cute

Thank you for reading all the way to the end, and for sticking with us all through the transition period. I’m going to miss these final moments of cute the most. It was always fun revisiting some of my favorite cute videos or scouring YouTube for a few minutes to find something new to share with y’all. 

For my final moment of cute, here is the adoption story of President-elect Joe Biden’s dog Major. Major will be the first shelter rescue dog to live in the White House. Major’s older brother Champ also makes a cameo appearance. 

American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the Presidential transition period from November 3rd, 2020 to January 21st, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Got questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.