Sunday, December 27, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Curious Interregnum

The time between a presidential election and a new
administration, especially when there is a change of
political parties, has a special flavor, but the interregnum
of 2020-21 seems to be in a category of its own.

Of course, the extraordinary months of pandemic, lockdown,
quarantine and universal anxiety which immediately
preceded the election were bound to have a great impact,
and they did, but the result has also been complicated by the
unusual character of both the outgoing and incoming
president, and by special circumstances.

Historically, bitter interregna are not unknown in the past
century.  Herbert Hoover was not gracious on March 4, 1933
(thereafter, inauguration day was January 20) while he drove
with Franklin Roosevelt to the swearing-in. Since election
day, 1932, President Hoover had been desperately trying to
avert a total collapse of the U.S.economy and banking system
without FDR’s cooperation.

On January 20, 1961, Richard Nixon, then vice president,
watched the swearing-in of John  Kennedy whom he believed
had stolen their close election a few months before --- and
this was reversed 8 year later on January 20, 1969 when then
Vice President Hubert Humphrey had to watch Nixon’s
swearing-in after their close and tumultuous contest.

On January 20, 2001, Vice President Al Gore looked on as
George W. Bush took the oath after their contested and close
election that was not decided for a month.

Outgoing President Donald Trump now believes his
re-election was stolen, and is minimally cooperating with
his incoming successor Joe Biden who will be the oldest
inaugurated president. The pandemic continues, and its
economic consequences are not fully known. Mr. Trump
has stalled stimulus legislation, asserting it is too little,
and appears at odds with his own U.S. senate majority,
while Mr. Biden faces a deep divide in his own party, and
an unhappiness with some of his cabinet and staff
choices. Before inauguration day, two Georgia senate
run-off elections will determine control of that body.
Democratic control of the U.S. house was significantly
reduced in 2020, as was its influence in many state
elections. Congressional redistricting will soon take place.

All of the above does not take place in an international
vacuum.  Mr. Biden is known to have some very different
views on foreign policy, but Mr. Trump’s recent success
in the Middle East (which has received bipartisan praise)
presents problems for the incoming president’s stated
desire to reinstate the Iran accord cancelled by Mr.
Trump. Issues that vexed his predecessor in Asia (China
and North Korea) and Europe (Russia and Brexit) will
now vex Mr. Biden.

Although the election is over, prior to Mr. Biden’s
inauguration less than a month from now, much remains
unresolved. The holiday season that coincides with most
of the political interregnum period was unlike any other.

By January 20, 2021, more will be clearer, but uncertainties
are in the political forecast well beyond then.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.


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