And there’s nothing Biden can do about it
In a modern democracy, Joe Biden would be President already, but America is not a modern democracy. American democracy is an old Rube Goldberg machine, full of racist booby traps and plain oddities. The founders originally left 4 months for the President-Elect to ride a horse into the capital. FDR reduced this to two after the Great Depression. After this, they may have to amend their Constitution again.
In this brutal interregnum, at least 100,000 people will die.
During the election itself, over 1,000 people were dying. Every day. This is only accelerating. America is flying five 737s into the ground every day because they send them up without pilots. They’ll keep doing this for another 72 days, because America.
If America is lucky inauguration day will follow 100,000 funerals. That is (literally) a conservative scenario.
“I see this as a very precarious moment,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who said that the Trump administration had “basically thrown in the towel” on trying to control the pandemic, while Mr. Biden and his team have nothing to wield but “moral power and social power” until Jan. 20.
"Without significant action," he said, "the idea that we have another 100,000 deaths by Inauguration Day would be a conservative estimate." (NYT)
Americans have voted and yet their fate remains sealed. The superspreader is still in the White House where he will remain for interminable months, doing lasting damage. These 100,000 deaths are just going to happen. And more.
While Americans are killing time, Donald Trump will continue killing Americans.
Joe Biden can only bide his time and wait. The last time Republicans broke the country, the mass-murderer Bush at least worked with Obama. Trump — focused as he is on murdering Americans — shows more signs of civil war than civil discussion.
Acting at Barack Obama’s behest, President George W. Bush on Monday asked Congress for the final $350 billion in the financial bailout fund, effectively ceding economic reins to the president-elect in an extraordinary display of transition teamwork. (CBS)
Under Trump, the government hasn’t even started the basic transition process. Even if they do, the White House itself is infected. Biden’s team will literally have to sit across from COVID-19 to get their briefing papers, which are probably post-it notes and prawn shells.
For the next 72 days Trump will, at best, do nothing to fight the virus, while sabotaging every effort of Biden to do better. He will leave an even bigger problem than today, and shatter the tools needed to fix it. The most important tools in public health are trust and time. That is what Trump has been shredding, and what he for the next two months will light on fire.
If you catch an epidemic early, like Mongolia, you’ll end up with no local transmission at all. If you bury a flare-up in a 111 day lockdown like Victoria, Australia did, you can get back to zero. If, however, you do nothing, then that power passes to the virus. And, well, it goes viral.
America is adding over 125,000 cases every day. In two months, it’s entirely possible for America’s 10 million infections to double. That is, by the time he takes office, Joe Biden’s job will be two times harder than when he was elected.
A stitch in time saves nine, but a little bitch in the White House infects 20 million.
The number one tool in public health is public trust. In many ways, it’s the only tool. Besides PCR testing, the basic tactics of public health would have been recognizable to Ibn Sina one thousand years ago. Everybody just listen and do this shit. These tactics just require public trust.
The first thing the public needs a leader, but what leader? This is what an election is supposed to make visible and decide. Trump does not accept the results nor, increasingly, do his 71 million voters. Biden has 4.4 million more, but the whole point is that you’re not supposed to face-off Braveheart style. You’re supposed to come together after an election, or at least STFU.
With leadership, the public then needs to work together to protect each other. It’s called public health. It’s like an external immune system. If 47.7% of the voting population, however, doesn’t believe there is a leader or a problem, public health really cannot work. Shields down, shields down.
The counties with the worst outbreaks voted overwhelmingly for Trump. How is a President Biden going to ever get them to follow basic health guidelines when they don’t even accept a President Biden?
This is why I wrote that Biden Can’t Save America three month ago. He can win, but he inherits an ungovernable nation. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
No public health tool can work on a population where 40% of people will not comply. Masking, distancing, even vaccines — none of these things work without nearly universal public support. Forget national lockdowns or vaccines. Americans can’t even agree to not breathe on each other.
Normally in times of crisis people rally around the flag. Republicans are rallying around the funeral. 100,000 funerals. These are all people walking around today, but their families will see a funeral before they ever see an inauguration.
Hence while Biden can do it, it’s not clear that America can. While Biden has a plan and a deep bench of experts (currently doing podcasts), he can’t do anything until January 20th. Even once he’s in, he can’t do anything without public support.
Joe Biden is now the captain of an ancient, creaky slaver’s ship, sailing into the mother of all shitstorms. Good luck and Godspeed. He’ll need it.