EDITORIAL: Democrats aren't sullen, they're just being realistic

From the pandemic to a myriad of other daunting challenges, President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris have no time to bask in the glow of their victory.

Mike Christopherson

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, a respected online polling, data analysis and analytics firm, recently noted that he'd never seen a political party so "sullen" after winning a presidential election.

But it's understandable. Maybe even expected, after all. Democrats are pragmatists. They don't ignore the problems and negative realities that surround them, and they know those problems and realities have to be addressed.

It should be noted, too, that incoming Democratic presidents often have to clean up the messes left by their Republican predecessors, whether it's another Republican fantasy that trickle-down economics benefits the middle and lower classes, a misguided war, a home mortgage scandal that crashes the stock market and tanks the economy, or a pandemic.

The pandemic alone means there will be no honeymoon period for President-Elect Joe Biden. But even if the spread of COVID-19 starts to wane at some point or a better therapeutic treatment or a reliable vaccine emerges, Biden will face considerable obstacles around every turn.

For one thing, even though he won as many electoral college votes as President Donald Trump did in 2016, which Trump called a "landslide" even though he lost the popular vote by around 3 million, Biden and his 5 million-plus popular vote margin over Trump in the 2020 election still knows he will lead a country in which a little more than 4 out of 10 people despise him and everything him and his party stand for. Among these 4 out of 10 people, including, now, actual elected members of congress, are people who wholeheartedly embrace a conspiracy theory based on the steadfast belief that Democratic "elites" belonging to the "deep state" run an international pedophile cartel out of a pizza joint, they practice cannibalism, worship the devil, and that Trump's election in 2016 was part of a top-secret plan to annihilate the cartel.

Setting aside the QAnon nonsense, Biden's biggest problem is the U.S. Senate. If the two Senate runoff elections in January don't go the Democrats' way, Republicans will continue to control the Senate, meaning Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell will remain as majority leader. If that happens, McConnell has already made it abundantly clear that he will do precisely what he did after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008: Obstruct the president’s agenda at every turn and at all costs. McConnell said from day one his goal was to make Obama a one-term president. He may have failed at that, but he was able to turn the Republican-led Senate for eight years into a do-nothing legislative body known for shelving hearings, stymying votes, and four-day weekends.

Aside from the Civil War, this nation is perhaps more divided than ever at this moment in time, so you'll have to forgive Biden and his supporters if they aren't doing backflips down Pennsylvania Avenue on inauguration day. He may have vanquished Trump, but that doesn't mean "Trumpism" will simply retreat into the shadows, where it predominantly existed up until the 2016 election.

But, no, Democrats aren't sullen over all of this. They are, in fact, hopeful. But at the same time they hold no delusions about what Biden and his administration are going to be able to accomplish.