Biden faces a country on edge
Por Milton Merlo
He will find a broken nation with altered states, while Trump remains a relevant figure in the Republican party beyond.

The polarization that for years has impacted Latin American politics and more recently, the European, is the predominant face of the country that Joe Biden has encountered since Wednesday, after being inaugurated as president in Washington DC.

2020 was a very turbulent year in the neighboring country, with racial protests in dozens of cities, clashes of protesters with police and the final consequence: the mob invasion of the Capitol building that took place a few days ago. By comparison, democracies in Mexico, Argentina or Brazil show stronger signs of channeling the overall mood. Especially if you consider that these countries express their discontent at the ballot box, with an election winner announced and the day ending without further inconveniences.

On Tuesday night, main CNN or MSNBC anchors devoted their broadcasts mainly to burying Donald Trump and congratulating themselves on the tough critical coverage in the last four years, and considered virtually impossible a return to the scenario of the business tycoon who in the next few hours will begin his exile in Florida. However, hard data warned to other scenarios ahead.

Last week the Axios news portal performed a survey alongside the firm Ipsos. The result is that Trump remains a major central figure in the Republican Party. That's why even though he flirted with the consequences of the invasion of the Capitol, most senators of that party kept a tactical silence. It was only in recent hours that Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell condemned Trump's attitude that led to chaos.

This dichotomy is striking. Trump is a star at the party bases, yet when he tried to campaign in Georgia in the early days of January the result was disastrous: he quarreled with that state's Republican governor, while Democrats won both seats and are now in control of Congress. In fact, today Wednesday, hours after inauguration, they hope to confirm seven members of the new cabinet without further questions of what they have done or what they want to do.

As James Fallows described last week in the weekly publication The Atlantic, Trump is the expression of a movement focused on an unrest that appears on both sides of the American political scenario. As long as that sociological phenomenon is in force within the public life of the country, risking a total eclipse of his figure sounds less anticipated.

In contrast, Biden intends to regain the habitual central view, normalizing the country and lowering the decibels of public discussions. The question is whether that society - in permanent motion as defined by journalist Tom Wolfe - is ready for what Biden wants to propose.

The new president has assembled a team made up mostly of classic Washington bureaucrats, former officials from the Barack Obama administration and diplomats or consultants from lobby firms dedicated to gaining sympathy in both parties. Quite the opposite from Trump's staff, filled with finance officials, entertainment figures or lifelong family and friends.

Biden, and in this he is not much different from Trump or Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has more of a goal from the past than for the future. He wants to return to the world's matrix that was built in the early 1990s: globalist, open regarding trade, with important multilateral bodies such as the UN or the Paris Agreement and with a permanent cooperation scheme. In face of this, his own country and the world might set challenges that demand colossal efforts from his part.

Journalists Peter Baker (The New York Times) and Susan Glasser (The New Yorker) have written one of the most commented books recently among the red circles of American politics. "The man who ran Washington" is the story of James Baker III, one of the Republican party's most striking political operators in the Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. governments.

In one of his multiple interviews with journalists, Baker vilifies Trump and talks about bipartisan agreements, pragmatism at the time of governing, and global accountability. Baker shares Biden's views and generation as well as similar understanding of politics. No wonder that the new CIA chief - William Burns - elected by the Democrat was repeatedly promoted by Baker when he served as secretary of state.

Baker is also asked about the meaning of power. "Power is for things to happen, and when they happen, to be sustained in time," he replies. The phrase holds the utmost question about the era that begins Wednesday in the United States: whether Biden will be just a symbol of moderation and professionalism for a future return of a country that identifies with Trump or whether he is called to place his country definitely back in its classic role in recent history.

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