Joe Biden faces historic challenges when he enters the White House on Jan. 20: a raging pandemic, persistently high unemployment, simmering tensions with China and Russia — and a predecessor who won’t go away.
Aware of the chaos and distraction Donald Trump has proved he can muster, the president-elect and his advisers have developed a strategy they believe is the only way to neutralize the threat: ignore him.
One lesson of Biden’s winning presidential campaign, they say, is that there’s little incentive to engage with Trump and that his penchant for spectacle is wearing thin with the American people. The tension will reach a head-on Jan. 6, when Congress formally ratifies Biden’s victory as Trump’s supporters’ wage protests both on the streets of Washington, egged on by the president, and within the House and Senate.
Biden has been “adamant that we were not going to get down in the gutter with Donald Trump every day,” said adviser Kate Bedingfield. “That’s not who he is, and that’s not what the American people want to see in a president.”
But the incoming administration is going to have trouble ignoring Trump, who’s poised to remain at least an aggravation to Biden. After refusing to concede defeat and declaring the election he lost to be illegitimate, he’s made clear he doesn’t plan to quietly retire, and has told associates he’ll run for president again in 2024.
For generations, U.S. presidents leaving the office to a successor of the opposition party have yielded power gracefully — even those defeated for re-election after a single term. But Trump’s attitude has set up the most awkward transfer of power in modern history and threatens to hamstring Biden as he confronts a long list of crises.
“This is unprecedented territory,” said Steve Israel, a former eight-term Democratic congressman from New York and director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. “We’ve never had a former president who is dedicated to the proposition of the failure of his successor.”
Biden’s team regards Trump’s attempts to overturn the will of voters — including his effort to recruit Republican lawmakers to challenge the congressional certification of the election results on Wednesday — as doing more harm to the outgoing president’s legacy than to Biden.
And they believe there are already signs that Trump’s bully pulpit and ability to command public attention is eroding, including waning media coverage of his election-related antics and congressional Republicans’ willingness to buck the president in recent legislative battles, including the first override of a Trump veto.
But Biden’s strategy to deprive Trump of attention will likely face frequent and immediate tests.
The outgoing president, sensing that his remaining power lies with still-formidable base supporters, has spent recent weeks threatening Republican lawmakers who dare to cross him.
Trump has repeatedly emphasized that he captured 74 million votes, a record for a defeated presidential candidate, and asserted that his presence on the ballot helped Republicans win election and re-election to federal offices.
“Republicans in the Senate so quickly forget,” he tweeted on Dec. 22. “Right now they would be down 8 seats without my backing them in the last Election.” In the same post, Trump predicted that John Thune, the number two Senate Republican, would lose a 2022 GOP primary challenge, “political career over!!!”….. (BOSTON GLOBE)