Back in the day, when America was still ‘normal,’ the 3 months between a president winning and taking office was a period when the incubment raced to see through policy objectives, and the newcomer formed a team to take over.
This time around will be different. Biden has already governed, and has an experienced team that was only disbanded a few years ago. Trump has mainly not governed, hollowing out the country’s political structures. Biden can fill the gap and begin to run the country competently from January 20th, but Trump’s deafening silence these last few days suggests he will spend the next few months focussed on legal battles, misinformation, and most likely doing all he can to save himself and his family. He’s more likely to leave prawns sewn into the curtains of the Oval Office than a carefully crafted letter in the drawer of the desk.
When autocrats fall, all but the most crazed loyalists abandon them quickly and absolutely. Leaders who rule through patronage earn no loyalty or love, they hold power only by being useful to others — a source of food for parasites. When they cease to be useful they are nothing more than a husk. Trump gave power to his allies, wealth to his friends and family, and attention to his media supporters. The Social Media companies sat and fiddled whilst Trump burned democracy through their platforms because he generated huge amounts of attention, and for them attention is money.
It is interesting how quickly Twitter started to black out Trump’s Tweets once it looked like he had both lost the election, and lost the plot. Once he was no longer in a position to be a genuine threat to them, he was all but silenced: from a source of revenue to a source of embarasement in just a short few days.
All Trump has left now, in reality and as a fitting metaphore, is Rudy ranting in a car park, and a few loyal golf cadies. The foreign leaders who fawned over him have abandoned him, with Bolsonaro claiming that Trump, is ‘not the most important person in the world,' and Netanyahu reminding Biden of their long-standing friendship.
Trump, his family, and his court are already completely obscured by Biden and Harris. They have vanished from our news cycle, from Social Media, and from the narrative. They are the past, and one people will soon want to forget.
But this raises the interesting question of who will run America until January 20th. The country is the grip of Covid, and struggling after four years of misrule. Trump leaves a huge vacuum of leadership, and that will just become more stark if he spends the next 3 months shouting about election frauds, launching legal battles, and pardoning his friends. He was only ever president out of self interest, so if that interest can no longer be served by the Office, why should he bother to turn up to work?
It therefore looks plausable that Biden will become defacto president, possibly as early as Monday. He will form his Covid panel of experts on Monday, and begin offering direction and guidance. He may not hold the levers of power, but with so many looking for leadership, which will now become completely absent from the White House, Biden may just find he is running the show long before he takes the stage.
Trump has lost all relevance, and his unwillingness to accept his defeat belittles him further. We will start to be reminded quickly of what leadership and government looks like, which will even further obscure Trump. His shouting and flailing around will look absurd next to Biden and Harris’s statesmanship. Trump will no doubt try to do a lot of harm before January 20th, but his ability to influence things has diminished, and if the media drops him then he will become stuck in his echo chamber, like a mad king in a court of jesters, playing the president only to his base whilst the rest of the world moves on.
Biden’s first challenge will be to hold the country together until January 20th from outside the White House.