A colleague from the Senate, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, once said to Joe Biden: “Not understanding that life is going to hit you and knock you down is not understanding the Irish in life.” By then, the Democrat knew about that and not just from what Grandpa Finnegan had told him. He had spent his childhood dodging bullies who made fun of his stuttering. He had lost his wife and one-year-old daughter in a car accident at the age of 29. He would see another of his children die, decades later, from a terrible cancer. “But for me that’s not the whole story about what it’s like to be Irish,” says Biden in Promise me, give, the book he wrote after the death of Beau, who was predestined to continue the political saga. “We, the Irish, are the only people in the world nostalgic for the future. I have never stopped being a dreamer. I have never stopped believing in the possibilities ”, he highlights.
When he was little more than a teenager, the mother of his girlfriend at the time (Neilia, his first wife) asked him about his professional vocation and he told her that he wanted to be president of the United States. This Wednesday, Joseph Robinette Biden (Scranton, Pennsylvania, 78 years old), nostalgic for the future, a believer in God and in possibilities, will be sworn in surrounded by barbed wire and soldiers, before a Capitol that was attacked days ago by a mob that wanted to avoid his government. .
Biden assumes the presidency that he has coveted throughout his life in the most adverse circumstances he ever projected and at a time in his life in which he already imagined retirement. After two unsuccessful presidential races and a third in which he was left for dead, fate has put him at the head of a United States that is going through three serious crises: the worst pandemic in a century, the sharpest recession since the Great Depression and a kind of breakdown of social coexistence.
The challenge is huge, of caliber RooseveltianBut the political opportunity is colossal rooseveltiana as well. Biden will be the president who predictably proclaims the end of the pandemic, the one who completes the vaccination program and the one who, barring surprises, can celebrate the overcoming of the economic debacle. Fate has written that this 78-year-old politician without excessive charisma, moderate in an effervescent time, occupies what in the world of photography is called the decisive moment. There is much talk that he will be a one-term president. Does not matter. He will also write a capital episode of the United States and, with this, of half the world.
He shock which occurred less than a year ago, will it weigh down or give wings to the reforms? The defeat of Donald Trump and the recovery of the White House for the Democrats created great expectations and these days there are many comparisons with the arrival of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to power in 1933. Shortly after his inauguration in the Government, he received a visitor – The press at the time did not identify him – they told him about the New Deal: “Mr. President, if your program is successful, you will be the best president in the history of the United States. If you fail, you will be the worst ”. And Roosevelt replied: “If I fail, I will be the last [presidente]”.
The anecdote is collected in The defining moment, a book by Jonathan Alter on those first 100 days in power, an account, in the words of its author, about how a man with a special genius for politics and communication revived the spirit of a battered nation.
Biden takes the reins of a country in dark hours with a very special ability to adapt to the environment – he was conservative when the world required it and, for example, faster than Barack Obama in embracing gay marriage when society turned – and the nose Enough to know that those distinctive qualities of yours – warmth, restraint, sweet normality – would become the syrup needed for this vibrant country.
“He has similarities to Lyndon B. Johnson because he too is a seasoned legislator who served a younger president and is now called upon to carry out progressive reforms, more progressive than people expect of him,” he comments by email. writer and journalist Evan Osnos, Pulitzer Prize Winner and author of Joe Biden. American dreamer, the latest biography on the next president. Osnos, who has followed and covered Biden for years, addresses the ambition of the veteran Democrat, a condition that often goes unnoticed in the Obama-era vice president, overshadowed by that plain-man’s demeanor.
He will be the first president since Ronald Reagan who has not passed through any of the eight universities of the Ivy League -that educational Olympus formed by Harvard, Columbia and Princeton, among others-, a circumstance that today, given the climate of distrust towards elites, it contains some political virtue. In a recent chronicle of The New York Times On the preparation of his first wave of decrees, advisers who work with him said that he hates excessively technical or academic language, which often interrupts the conversation and says: “Pick up the phone, call your mother and tell her what you finished me to say to me. If you understand, we can continue talking. “
Yes, if the mother understands it, not the father or brother. Biden is a creature of the Silent Generation, that group of Americans who were born after the Great Generation, who fought for democracy in World War II, but before the boomers and its cultural revolution. Born into a working-class family, the son of a Chevrolet car salesman, he will be the first Catholic president since John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Also, the one who arrives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the most political baggage. He was sworn in to his first elected position from Washington, Senator from Delaware, in January 1973, when he was 30 years old, and became one of the youngest members of the Upper House in history. Now, he will take the position of president as the oldest.
Between one milestone and another, he has seen and contributed to change society since Congress. He negotiated with segregationist politicians, voted for the Iraq war, conducted – in a way that today has aged poorly – the first large hearing on an accusation of sexual harassment (Anita Hill against whom he was to be confirmed as Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas, in 1991). Now, he promises to promote the most ambitious environmental and social and labor reform in history.
“In big decisions that have to be made quickly, I have learned over the years that a president is never going to have more than 70% of the information he needs. So, once you’ve consulted the experts, the data and the statistics, you have to be willing to trust your guts, ”the next president has said in the past.
Biden has promised the world that the United States is “back” on the global board after four years of isolationist turn. He has promised his country the healing of wounds. He arrives with many plans and a fundamental objective, to recover the unity of the country, something close to it. He wants to reach agreements with Republicans in Congress, take advantage of his experience as a legislator, and try to prevent the new impeachment to Trump condition his career.
He will suffer hardships, that Irish side of life. More than half of Trump’s voters – and there were 74 million this 2020 – believe him an illegitimate president who won the elections fraudulently, despite the fact that neither the justice nor the electoral authorities have found any trace of such irregularities. After those first 100 days of grace, he will also receive friendly fire, pressure from the most left flanks of the Democratic Party, which has received with some disappointment a cabinet made up of veterans of Obama’s old guard. But it will also govern a society that has spent four years in tension and wants change.
This Tuesday, when he left his city, Wilmington (Delaware), and headed to Washington for the inauguration, he remembered his son who died in 2015. “I only regret one thing, that Beau is not here, because it should be him who take office as president ”. Nostalgia for the future is not incompatible with that of the past.
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