Biden's challenge: Bring the 30% into the fold

  • Susan Estrich

    Susan Estrich

By Susan Estrich
Posted1/22/2021 1:00 AM

Going into Inauguration Day, a poll found that 66% of all Americans approved of the way then-President-elect Joe Biden handled the transition.

Deservedly so. If ever there were a perfect setup for a transition in disarray, it would be one where the loser is in the White House and he refuses to concede. And last week, not too many people were taking the odds that the Biden transition team would pull it off.


It kept marching forward.

While Donald Trump was riling up the crowd, Biden was announcing his nomination of the superbly qualified Judge Merrick Garland to lead a revived Justice Department.

While the House was debating the impeachment of Trump, Biden Cabinet nominees continued to meet with senators and prepare for their confirmation hearings.

No disarray.

President Biden takes office with the most experienced team of appointees of any president I can remember, which they need to be if they are to get this country vaccinated and employed again. The late William Safire, one of the great New York Times columnists, used to bemoan the disregard with which experience in government was derided, pointing out that in searching for a plumber, one never looks for the least experienced. Ditto for surgeons, Treasury secretaries facing unprecedented economic challenges and doctors during a pandemic.

Treasury secretary nominee Janet Yellen, first up to bat, was a familiar face to the Senate committee -- as are many of these nominees -- an opportunity for senators to address economic issues and not her credentials.

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Four years ago, they were swamp dwellers. There are, to be sure, snakes in the swamp, but very few of them volunteer for additional terms to face much bigger challenges than the last time around at a fraction of the salary they could be making outside of office, especially with all their connections. They have signed up for four years of limitless work and criticism.

However many mistakes Biden and his team may make in the future, it is hard for even the "conservative but honest" observers to point to any big ones they made during the transition. A few of the nominations have produced some blowback, but remarkably few for those who can remember the messy transitions of times past.

So, what stops me in my tracks is not the 66% who approved of the Biden transition but the nearly 30% who didn't.

As my grandmother would say, what's not to like?

Or, more accurately, what do they want? The answer, of course, is Donald Trump. By his never-ending assault, he has kept the election alive for those who most fervently backed him.


Trump's approval rating is, in my book, far more stunning than President Biden's.

He was right about being able to get away with murder on Fifth Avenue. He claimed he could do it and his supporters would still be with him. He came perilously close -- inciting a riot at the United States Capitol on live television is not really so different. He skipped Inauguration Day. And yet, in post-riot polls leading up to Inauguration Day, between 39% and 41% of all Americans still approved of the job he was doing as president.

I don't believe those people are "deplorables," as Hillary Clinton once called them at a fundraiser, to her eternal regret. Unattainable, perhaps, if you're counting votes for moderates or trying to raise money from liberals. Leading up to the election, celebrities and politicians and old friends were purging all Trump supporters from their planet, but it doesn't work that way. Because the truth is that not all Trump supporters secretly hook up to an IV to get Fox News. Breaking all records in the days leading up to the election, an average of 5.3 million people watched the most-watched program on Fox News, Tucker Carlson. By contrast, 74 million people voted for Trump, meaning less than 10% of them would have watched Carlson on his best night ever.

Who are the rest getting information from? And how do Joe Biden and his team bring them into the fold so as to govern?

© 2021, Creators

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