When the United States elects a new president, or reelects one, it goes without saying that it is an enormous news story all over the world. If even it’s sometimes hard for Americans to fathom just how important what happens in the U.S. is to the rest of the world, our elections affect everyone in some way. Tuesday’s election will be no different. The world is watching to see if the Trump nightmare will finally come to an end. If Biden wins, the story will still be, as it always is, about Trump. Of course, the other big and emotional news will be the election of Kamala Harris as the first woman vice president.
This might seem a little unfair for Biden, who, on his third attempt, will be finally realizing his lifelong dream. All politicians have big egos and a sprinkling of narcissism, but Biden will have the deep satisfaction of being the man who put an end to Trump’s time in the White House. This election hasn’t been about ideology or policy, it’s been about character. Hillary Clinton’s campaign also tried to make it about character, but in 2016 it was so hard for many voters to believe that Trump would take his bombastic, infantile, ranting style with him to the White House.
The beloved American writer Maya Angelou left us with some sound advice: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” For years after he was elected, we have witnessed how Trump has governed exactly how he campaigned in 2016. He has remained true to his view that the rest of the world is taking advantage of and even laughing at the U.S. He has continued to put his own interests first and show absolutely no loyalty to those who have been loyal to him. He winks at white supremacists, flirts with authoritarian strongmen, endlessly self-aggrandizes, blames everyone but himself and shamelessly tweets conspiracy theories and outright lies at all hours. Many people thought that the weight of the office would bring out a more presidential demeanor in him because they didn’t believe him when he showed us just who he was in the months leading up to the 2016 election. Now we know. We know all too well.
Biden has also shown us who he is. Not just during this campaign, but over decades of public service as a senator and vice president. His campaign may have seemed a bit quiet, even boring but compared to the overstimulation we’ve all been subject to and this comes to many as a relief. That said, many people here in Spain have told me that he’s not a good candidate and I suspect it’s because he’s not the kind of transformative figure that we’ve seen in other Democrats, such as Obama, Bill Clinton or Kennedy. But then, not every winning candidate or president is.
What Biden has shown us is the steady, competent antidote to these head-splitting times. While it’s true that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line, I posit that Democrats didn’t need to fall in love this time around. The data backs this up: Democrats haven’t been voting so much for Biden but against Trump. It might seem sad, but elections are often about voting for the lesser of two (or three or four) evils.
If Biden wins, we’re all going to have to get over our addiction to the relentless, head-splitting pace of the tweets and news cycles. This might sound like a dream right now, especially to my fellow journalists, but it isn’t going to be easy. Biden’s tweets are written by communications staff. They don’t shock or give us insight into what is going through his head at any given moment. Things are going to become a whole lot more boring. Instead of struggling to get across the absurdity of Trump’s latest outburst, scandal, racist tweet or what have you, we’ll be forced to dig into the much more subtle territory of policy and diplomacy.
So, while the headline might be that Trump will no longer be the so-called leader of the free world, Grampa Biden will be there, steadily building the U.S. back better and re-establishing normal working relationships with our longtime allies. We might have to get used to the new normalcy coming from the White House, but in these exhausting times, a little normal might do us all a lot of good.
This op-ed was published in Spanish in El Español.