(CNN)During his 2020 campaign, Joe Biden repeatedly promised that if he beat President Donald Trump, things would go back to normal — or close to it.
“I just think there is a way, and the thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House,” Biden said back in May 2019. “Not a joke. You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.”The message was simple: Trump was a glitch — in the GOP and the country. Once fixed, we could get back to our usual programming.That’s always felt sort of Pollyannaish to me — a misread on whether Trump was the cause of the rising cult of know-nothing-ism and anti-intellectualism at all costs, or just an accelerant of it. Biden seems to believe the former; I am in the latter camp.
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Former President Barack Obama is on my side, at least according to an interview he gave to NPR to promote his memoir of his time in office, which comes out Tuesday.Read MoreOf Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Obama said this (bolding is mine):”I believe that they will restore a bunch of norms — respect for science, respect for facts, respect for rule of law that I think have been breached over the last four years — but some of the bigger challenges in bringing the country together, that’s going to be a project that goes beyond just one election.”What are those “bigger challenges” of which Obama speaks? He explained it this way: “Until we can start having a common baseline of facts from which to discuss the direction of the country, we’re going to continue to have some of these issues.”Obama’s point is this: Americans live in two separate universes — largely governed by their politics at the moment. Those two universes cannot agree on a shared set of facts like, say, that Biden won the election fair and square.In the absence of a shared set of facts, conversation — much less compromise — is impossible. And if one American universe will never even acknowledge that Biden won the White House (as opposed to it being stolen from Trump), then it’s going to be very, very tough for him to bring people together.And because politicians take their cues from the people who elect them, there will be zero political incentive among Republicans to find a way to work with Biden.The Point: Obama ran and won on a message of “hope and change.” But two terms in the White House (and four more years spent as an outside observer) have convinced him that what’s changed in American politics — and life — won’t be fixed by a Biden win alone. Not even close.