Ahead of a day when Americans are expected to carve up 45 million turkeys to celebrate the harvest and blessings of the past year, the United States is reaping the Covid-19 whirlwind Trump has sowed, notwithstanding the imminent arrival of vaccines. For the first time since the outbreak, the country has recorded two million cases in two weeks, with daily death toll ticking past 2000 on Tuesday. It is the first time it has breached that one-day mark since May in a pandemic that has claimed over 265,000 lives.
The grim statistics belies Trump’s claim that the pandemic is no big deal. But they made little impact on a pandemic-fatigued population on the busiest travel day of the year as Americans ignored warnings not to travel. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recorded its highest number of weekend passengers since the pandemic began in March, with over 3 million people traveling the weekend before Thanksgiving. All bets, not to speak of contact tracing, is off; Biden is on track to inherit a raging, out-of-control pandemic.
Still, the President-elect tried to project a semblance of order and confidence while introducing his incoming team on Tuesday, declaring, “these public servants will restore America globally, its global leadership and its moral leadership…It’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it.”
As reported on Monday, the team has a fair share of women, including vice-president Kamala Harris, with Janet Yellin nominated to be Treasury Secretary, Avril Haines nominated to be intelligence chief, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be US envoy to the United Nations. They will be required to go through a Senate confirmation process.
In a separate NBC interview, Biden rejected the idea that his administration will be a “Obama third term” while confirming that Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will not be part of his cabinet given the close numbers in the Senate where Democrats have a chance to tie the chamber 50-50 if they win the two run-off Senate races in Georgia on January 5. The progressive lobby in the party have been pushing for Warren as treasury secretary and Sanders for labor secretary. Biden also pledged not to use the Justice Department to pursue cases against Trump, although the outgoing President is expected to face cases at the state level from prosecutors in New York, where he was formerly a resident.
Biden also revealed that he had not spoken to Trump after the elections but he was ready to do so if the outgoing President called him. On his part, Trump has still not conceded formally and continues to insist he won the election. He is expected to outgoing his path forward in a speech in Gettysburg on Wednesday.
While mainstream political pundits welcomed the return of a traditionalist and globalist order in Washington DC, Trumpists are lamenting the same while bemoaning the end of the outgoing President’s “America First” policy that the incoming President is expected to dump. “Biden’s ‘Ivy League’ cabinet will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline,” Trump-supporting Florida Senator Marco Rubio said.
The Biden pledge to return the US to world leadership came even as Trump continued his improbably quest for victory despite implicitly conceding defeat in an election where he reaped the largest vote share for a losing candidate (over 74 million ballots), and was defeated by a rival who also won the largest vote share for a winning candidate (80 million+ ballots).
Conspiracy theories floated by Trump and his associates that Biden could not have gotten ten million votes than Obama (70 million votes in 2008) is belied by the fact that there are 25 million more voters in USA in 2020, not to speak of a record turnout stemming from anti-Trump sentiments. The Trump campaign has repeatedly failed to prove in court that there was large-scale electoral malpractice and rigging, which facing humiliating smackdowns from judges and Republican officials.
Having failed to steal the election with a strategy that essentially sought to invalidate black votes (on top of disenfranchising many black voters by implicitly racist means) in cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Milwaukee, the former President is now busy charting a future course to stay relevant. While some analysts reckon that he will simply fade away and become “just another crackpot on the internet” without the oxygen of publicity, others say his entire exercise of contesting the results of the election is aimed at keeping his base intact for another stab at the White House in 2024.
On Tuesday, Trump made a brief 64 second foray to the White House briefing room to boast about the Dow Jones stock index crossing a “sacred” mark of 30,000 before scuttling out without taking questions. It was his shortest ever media appearance; he has not taken questions from reporters since he lost the election three weeks ago. Instead, he has been retweeting garbage from extreme right wing outlets such as OANN and Newsmax that are being banned from mainstream platforms and are trying to create their own media eco-systems, with little success.
The defeated President also pardoned a pair of turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving in a White House ritual, amid jokes about who else he would pardon before he demits office — a list that includes himself.