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Joe Biden is President, but America’s democracy is under immense stress



A bird’s eye view of Washington, and America’s democracy seems normal

In America, democracy seems to have returned to normal. Joe Biden is president.  Kamala Harris is vice president and Biden’s Cabinet is in place.  He has sent a budget to the Congress.  His emergency pandemic control and economic stimulus program became law.  Vaccinations will soon reach 70 per cent of Americans and the country is open. 

Summer is coming.  The new president’s approval rating is close to 60 per cent.  The press secretary briefs the media every weekday; the press is not referred to as “the enemy of the people.”  Biden and Harris get an intelligence briefing every day.  

When a crisis erupts, as it did in Israel and Gaza two weeks ago, the president attends to it

A ceasefire is agreed on, and is in place.  The Secretary of State visits the region and promotes peace.

“We could be at the end of a major era in Israeli politics”

A normal presidency, yes?  The way it was before Trump, yes?

But, at ground level, there are rifts, fissures, earthquakes.  Hyperpartisanship is at an all-time high.  No Republicans voted for the relief package – although several are claiming credit for what’s in it when they talk to their voters. 

Bipartisan talks on a $2 trillion infrastructure package are close to collapse.  The Senate requires a supermajority of 60 votes to do business, and there are not 10 Republican votes to join with the Senate’s 50 Democrats  to promote voting rights, or gun control, or policing reform, or immigration reform.

Furthermore, on a fundamentally important issue (establishing a special independent commission to examine and report on the insurrection that threatened America’s democracy) there were not 60 votes in the Senate to get it underway.  As was he case with 9/11, the country needs, it deserves, a full examination of the forces unleashed by President Trump that led to that terrible day, and for the country to come to a reckoning with the domestic terrorism threat to America’s democracy.

Underneath these partisan forces in Washington is a political landscape riven with division


70 per cent of Republicans believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump.  50 per cent of Republicans also believe Trump is the legitimate president – and Biden is not.

Those sentiments have triggered politicised  reviews and audits in several states of last November’s vote, and moves in several states, from Georgia to Arizona to Florida and Texas, to enact new laws that make voting much harder, and to depress voter turnout. 

It does not matter if Trump carried states like Texas and Florida; the legislatures there are passing new laws to restrict the ability to vote.

Donald Trump remains the dominant force in the Republican Party. 

Donald Trump served as the 45th president of the United States from 2017 to 2021.

Members of Congress who question his leadership and what he does are purged from power.  The famous Trump base is intact, agitated and loyal to him.  And fear of those voters, and the threat they pose to any Republican in elected office who dares to break with Trump,  is preventing Republicans in Congress from working with Joe Biden and his program of rebuilding the country.


This is a difficult moment.  The country is a long way from healing.  How successful Biden will be as president is uncertain.  How empowered the Trump forces will remain is very much in play.  

Currently, at stake are not only the prospects for  domestic tranquility and steady progress towards a more perfect union, but also America’s reputation in a world dominated more and more by the forces of authoritarianism.

And the whole world is watching.

Read more by Bruce Wolpe here.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Margaret Vickers

    June 1, 2021 at 8:58 am

    Excellent overview Bruce. Deeply worrying, but current polls show only 25% of voters are Republican, of these 40% agree Biden is President, so crunching the data the proportion comprising Trumps base is about 15% (ref, Heather Cox R).

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