The election of President-elect Joe Biden has raised hopes for a return to “normalcy” in American politics. Biden has stated that his reason for running for president was to “restore the soul of America.” But the question remains, is there a normal to return to or a soul that can be restored? I think not. And even if there was, would we really want to return to it?
A return to normalcy could mean several things depending on who you ask. It could simply mean returning to a pre-Trump political landscape. It could also mean returning to a time where Democrats and Republicans worked together. Finally, I think it could also mean returning to a time of social stability and a general upbeat zeitgeist. I believe that the first answer is impossible and the following two are undesirable.
Assuming Trump leaves the White House willingly, which unfortunately is an assumption, he will not be leaving politics and his influence will be far from gone. Trump has taken over the Republican Party and has the ability to make or break candidates in the party. I think it is naive to think that his fervent supporters are going anywhere. Trump’s influence on social media certainly is not going away and he plans to start his own media company in the near future.
The other two options sound nice but have dangerous implications for much of America. Let us think about when Democrats and Republicans worked together regularly. It has not been the case for at least 30 years. Democrats and Republicans were able to get along and compromise when they were both dominated by white men. This “compromise” was never real, because it was only ever between the elite of our society. This goes hand-in-hand with a return to social stability. Social “stability” in the past has only really been among white people. The marginalized and disenfranchised people of this country have not been satisfied with the status quo of the past when they did not rise up. Rather, they were being effectively suppressed in that moment. The times of social instability we picture are when these suppression tactics are not enough to hold off the marginalized people of this country. To give a semi-recent example, the 1990’s are seen as a generally great time period for the West. Communism was all but destroyed and Western economies and technology were booming. What is missing from this picture is the lives of black and brown people in the United States at this time. The 90s were the years of the War on Crime and the 1994 Crime Bill. The 1994 Crime, written by Joe Biden, systematically discriminated against non-white offenders and caused the problem of mass incarceration to explode.
If this is what normal and restoring the soul of America looks like, I want no part of it.