By Barry Jagoda
President Trump might have won 2020 re-election had he built on his base of nearly 70 million voters by reaching across the political divide in an effort to bring to his side independents or even some marginal Democrats.
Near the end had he — uncharacteristically — slightly toned down his rhetoric by promising an effort, once re-elected, to be President of all the people, or at least just for a larger slice, he could have been returned to the White House. This moderating “tactic” would have enabled a victory for Trump, as he could have won over voters in the closest races, particularly in Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and even Pennsylvania.
President-elect Joe Biden now will have to begin delivering on his promises to govern for all the people, not only those nearly 74 million, who voted for him. It should be noted that Biden months ago named his closest political ally, one-time Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman, to head up the transition team for the incoming national leadership.
It is to be expected that Biden and Harris will immediately begin to pay attention—to move forward—with advice from the world of science and policy. With exhortation from the new White House beginning to focus on defeating, or certainly at least on reducing, the effects of the coronavirus, there is hope that beginning in January 2021 “our long national nightmare will be over,” as former President Gerald Ford expressed in the 1970s.
Though it is always easy to seem wise in hindsight, it is unfortunate that the Trump re-election team seems not to have advisors who would have been able to see the wisdom of just a slight move toward the center in the final days of the 2020 election. And we know that even if such guidance had come from those closest to Trump, it would have likely been turned away by an egomaniacal candidate.
This is known merely by remembering the style in which Trump tried to lead the nation, paying attention only to his own personal sense of invincibility. This close-minded focus, this insularity, has now raised the prospect of Trump not conceding defeat, but of even being removed as a trespasser in the White House.
During the four years of the Trump presidency he governed almost always as a divider, seldom as a uniter. Trump seems not to have understood that a truly improved economic picture could, and would, have resulted from listening more to science.
Now there does seem to be ways for strong leadership to help the American people save lives from the pandemic and then move forward on the economy. Donald Trump could never convince himself that the financial picture would improve only after a slowing down of the deaths and contagion. Why the President refused to act more vigorously to provide leadership in the fight against COVID-19 may be a lasting question as the Biden presidency takes over.
It appears that Biden now will pay careful attention to the many smart political and policy advisors who make up his team. Some political scientists have urged that those who helped in winning the presidency now join the Biden-Harris in focusing on the nation’s problems and its opportunities for using government instead of fighting government.
It is expected that the incoming administration will quickly move to protect the population from COVID-19, probably by using the “bully pulpit” that is unique to a President, and by turning to advisors who now finally can help guide the population instead of sending out antagonist tweets that further divide our nation of 330 million souls. This is the hope for the coming months and years.
Barry Jagoda, a La Jolla resident, was an award-winning journalist at NBC News and CBS News who later served in the White House as an assistant for President Jimmy Carter. His new book about the Carter years is Journeys With Jimmy Carter and Other Adventures in Media.