‘You all… declare me dead. Guess what? I ain’t dead. I’m not going to die.’ That was Joe Biden back in January, speaking to the New York Times editorial board. ‘Everybody dies,’ replied a female Times board member, showing that lightness of spirit that is her newspaper’s speciality. ‘I’m not going to die politically,’ said Biden.
Well, Joe was right. He ain’t dead, politically. Assuming he doesn’t die, physically, he will on 20 January become the 46th president of the United States of America. Not bad for a 78-year old boy from Scranton, Pennsylvania with a lifelong speech impediment and a worrying tendency to forget where he is.
People said that Biden would be too old and senile to beat the political weather system that is Donald J. Trump. He has proved them wrong — just. He has been called a Democratic fossil, demented, his campaign a ‘zombie effort’. Yet it turns out, in this morbid year of disease and crisis, a zombie candidate is exactly what the majority of Americans wanted.
Americans aren’t as optimistic as they used to be. They now seem to prefer politicians who deal in negativity. Four years ago, Donald Trump won an election after telling his countrymen that ‘the American dream is dead’. This year, in a strange turnaround, Trump tried to present himself as the bright-side candidate. ‘Don’t be afraid of Covid,’ he said, after his own brush with the virus, ‘Don’t let it dominate your lives.’ Biden, by contrast, promised voters ‘a dark winter’ of death and almost certainly more lockdowns and pandemic restrictions. Americans preferred the gloomy message. At the moment, it seems, free peoples seem to quite like the idea of not being free.
Biden’s whole candidacy was numbingly negative. He ran a campaign that didn’t actually campaign. The strategy was obvious: withdraw from the public eye and turn the election into a referendum on Trump, who, though loved by fans, has never been popular with the American electorate as a whole.