If Donald Trump wins the presidency, it would be the start of a new age of endarkenment, warned the Guardian in an article published four years ago, the day the US went to the election, as did global media and pundits.
"Should Trump win, it would be a victory for a candidate who has lied more than any in history, who is spectacularly unqualified for the job and who stands contrary to the very idea of expertise. It would be a triumph over truth, facts and knowledge," reads the article.
What happened next is now a reality. The situation has been no less dire than the forecast.
A peaceful transition of power, which has become a hallmark of American democracy for the last two hundred years, is now under threat because of Trump's refusal to accept his election defeat and ensure smooth and peaceful handover of powers to Joe Biden. Trump's madness has led to riot inside the Capitol on January 6 and countrywide protests by his followers on Biden's inauguration day.
The Washington DC and many capitals of the states appear to have been put under lockdown, not in fear of the virus spreading, but in fear of "insurrection" by right wing extremist Trump followers who still believe the falsehood that the election has been stolen, denying Trump a second term, and are preparing to stage rowdy protests across USA as warned by the FBI.
Thus American democracy, as some critics say, has gone democrazy, thanks to Trump and his unruly followers who have brought down the century old pride of US democracy. What the US has now become under Trump, a man who was dubbed "phony, fraud, decisive, demagogue, stupid and wrong", is a perverted and distorted form of democracy, they view.
Against all odds, the only beacon of hope is that the upcoming Biden's administration will make a difference. There are some reasons to be optimistic.
With the inauguration of Biden, a new chapter in US history will kick off because of Kamala Harris, who will be sworn in as his vice-president. This is historic because Harris, a black person, is the first woman to become a US vice-president.
Biden's first day in presidency is expected to kick off the process of making a difference. He ascends to the presidency on Wednesday with an inaugural speech outlining how he'll tackle the health and economic crises he inherits, while attempting to knit the country back together, just two weeks after the outgoing president's loyalists waged a deadly riot to block the change of power, says a Bloomberg report.
He will cap a busy day of inauguration pageantry by using the powers of his new office to push policy changes on housing, student loans, climate change and immigration, says Reuters, quoting a top aide of Biden.
Biden, who campaigned on a raft of promises to undo President Donald Trump's legacy even before the novel coronavirus pandemic walloped the nation, will unveil "roughly a dozen" previously promised executive actions on Wednesday.
The actions to be taken on Wednesday include rejoining the Paris climate accords, reversing a travel ban on several majority Muslim countries, extending a pause on federal student loan payments, halting evictions and foreclosures, as well as mandating masks in inter-state travel and on federal property.
Preparations of the upcoming Biden administration has already boosted up people's confidence just days after a deadly riot inside the U.S. Capitol.
A whopping 64% of voters express a positive opinion of Biden's conduct since he won the November election. Majorities also approve of Biden's Cabinet selections and how he has explained his plans and policies for the future, a recent study conducted by Pew Research Center found.
Donald Trump is leaving the White House with the lowest job approval of his presidency (29%) and increasingly negative ratings for his post-election conduct. The share of voters who rate Trump's conduct since the election as only fair or poor has risen from 68% in November to 76%, with virtually all of the increase coming in his "poor" ratings (62% now, 54% then).
Yet, Biden's challenges are bigger. None of his predecessors faced such Herculean tasks, ranging from containing the deadly virus to protecting lives and livelihoods and fighting the extremism that that became a monster during Trump's presidency. He has to rebuild the US image in the global arena, which was severely damaged and broken by Trumpism. The key questions are: can the White House bring back the credibility of elections? Can the White House return rule of law under the Biden administration through dismantling Trump's legacy? His biggest challenge is to correct the political discourse Trump built, based on falsehood and perversion.
In the view of Graham Allison, a professor of government at the Harvard Kennedy School, Biden's job will be harder than his predecessors. So Washington needs to move beyond traditional strategy of overwhelming problems with resources.
"Americans will have to learn to be more discriminating in distinguishing between national interests that are truly vital and others that are merely vivid", he writes, "In this grave new world, grand ambitions will be constrained by diminished capabilities and produce diminished results."
Biden's endeavour to get back USA will be immensely benefited from the efficient and independent institutions the US has built over the decades, thanks to fair distribution of political power among the institutions after it got independence from British colonial rule.
The institutions such as Congress, Supreme Court and various federal agencies will also be a part of Biden's endeavour to put the derailed train on the track. They will float and sink together. Their success will appear as a reminder for the developing world with fragile democracies on the need to build institutions for healthy survival of the state. Many former British colonies have failed to build institutions due mainly to their failure to ensure distribution of state powers among the organisations. That resulted in suffering from governance crisis and bad governance, to a large extent. Due to absence of proper institutions, people remain powerless in those countries with poor economic condition, despite the fact they are the owner of all powers of the state.
Therefore, Biden's success will offer some food for thought on a raft of burning issues.
Shakhawat Liton is the Deputy Executive Editor of The Business Standard