Biden inauguration at last : “Americans always finally do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else first”

Jan 20th, 2021 | By | Category: In Brief
The 22-year old poet (and democratic political theorist) Amanda Gorman was the surprise star of the Biden-Harris inauguration.

FROM THE ELEGANT NEW MACBOOK AIR LAPTOP OF RANDALL WHITE, GANATSEKWYAGON, ONTARIO, CANADA. JANUARY 20, 2021, 10:30 PM ET : I had noted Daniel Dale’s tweet last night – “The President and The First Lady will depart the White House at 8:00 AM for Palm Beach, Florida.” I made a point of getting up to watch it on TV.

As it concluded Donald and (a smartly-dressed-in-black) Melania Trump left Joint Base Andrews on Air Force One, to the recorded strains of Frank Sinatra singing My Way. I have altogether no use for Trump’s politics. But if you seriously believe in democracy (as I certainly do : what else is there to believe in nowadays?), you have to respect the 74.2 million votes (or 46.9% of the total) that he won on November 3, 2020. My feeling was that this last bow of the blatantly lying President Trump who would soon vanish from the official record was a “class act” of sorts – different from the “low class” supporters he apparently regretfully observed on TV at the January 6 invasion of the US Capitol he did so much to inspire.

Lady Gaga also gave a sensational and deeply passionate performance of the US national anthem at the inauguration.

Out of the same democratic respect, I want to put some positive spin on Trump’s (albeit inadvertent) contribution to what Richard Hofstadter called The American Political Tradition (in a classic history book first published in 1948). My best shot is that Trump has finally forced the US political system to recognize and stand up for its most important evolutionary past, present, and future as a democracy : a “free and democratic society” – the society rightly celebrated in President Biden’s inaugural address. Of course, the narcissist authoritarian Trump does not believe in any of this himself. But as the Reverend William Barber suggested on TV, we may be able to most usefully regard Trump’s four long years as president not as the end of something in the past, but as the “pangs of a birth of a third reconstruction” in the evolution of democracy in America – which the Biden-Harris administration has now happily begun!

In a similar determination to take an optimistic view of the USA today on January 20, 2021, I am happy to think as well that Joe Biden in his late 70s just may be the right person at the right time in the ongoing history of democracy in America. He is reaching out not so much to the extremist Republicans who still crazily believe the blatant big lie that Trump somehow actually won the 2020 election, as to the increasingly largest share of the electorate who now call themselves Independents, in between Republicans and Democrats. Recent polling also suggests President Biden just may be able to unite at least some broader swath of America, including at least parts of the Republican USA that former President George W. Bush spoke for on January 20, 2021.

Jean Chretien and Bill Clinton in Montreal, October 2017.

In this same spirit, still currently obsessed as I am by the prime ministerial career of “Yesterday’s Man” Jean Chrétien in Canada, 1993—2003, it seems to me at any rate potentially vaguely relevant to the presidential career of Joe Biden 2021—202?. It is no doubt also crazy to think Canada has anything to suggest to the USA. But Canada did live through serious domestic conflict and secession aspirations in the later 20th century.

Though Jean Chrétien had none of the intellectual elan or charismatic profile of his predecessor Pierre Trudeau (who wrote books and so forth), like Biden he had a long and deep career in federal politics. Whatever else, Chrétien’s political savvy and long experience in government and parliament helped Canada hang together and then go on to prosper, during a challenging period in its recent past that might have seen the end of the evolution of democracy in Canada (since 1497!).

And (in any case) Canadians were pleased to hear that President Biden’s first telephone call with a foreign leader will be with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Reminiscent of the almost warm relationship between Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and President Bill Clinton, who also helped keep Canada together in the 1990s.)

“Must Be Mating Season” by Michael Seward, January 2021.

Finally, I am probably old enough to have a few colonial memories of life in the old (and now vanished) British North America of the British North America Act 1867, now just known in Canada as the Constitution Act 1867. In a related vein something about what has been finally sealed and delivered in the USA on January 20, 2021 reminds me of the most important democratic fact that on November 3, 2020 81.3 million American voters – or 51.4% of the total – voted for Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Ms Kamala Harris.

The legendary Winston Churchill (1874-1965), that is to say, is apparently much admired by the current UK PM Boris Johnson (who was born in the USA himself). And Churchill is alleged to have observed long ago : “The Americans always finally do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else first.”

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