Biden is not speaking to the members of the mob. Like cheese dip that’s been left out in the sun too long, they’re probably spoiled. They won’t ever come back to reality, where sometimes politicians win elections and sometimes they lose elections.
But Biden is speaking to Republicans—Republican leaders, specifically. More than 150 congressional Republicans embraced Trump’s call to challenge the (not close) election, hoping to demonstrate their loyalty to him, or get a leg up for the 2024 GOP presidential primaries. Many, perhaps most, of those members knew that the election wasn’t actually stolen. But those who aren’t in the know didn’t realize it was all a show. “The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken,” Mitch McConnell, the majority leader for a few more days, said on the Senate floor in admonishment of what his colleagues were about to do. “If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.”
In the past year, Biden has seen these same Republicans play dumb about Trump’s efforts to barter the integrity of American foreign policy and military aid in exchange for helpful dirt on Biden and his son. He’s seen most say nothing about the Trump campaign’s dragging his son’s addiction into the presidential race. He often said while campaigning that the American people know who Trump is. He knows who Trump’s water carriers are, and he won’t forget. He’ll try to get them to work on common-ground legislation, but now that the two Senate victories in Georgia will give Democrats full control of Congress, he won’t necessarily need to. He will try, but those who have spoken with Biden say he does know that when McConnell and his colleagues call for bipartisanship, they’re often bluffing.
They’re mostly a lost cause too, he knows. Biden is still trying, desperately, to talk to the people outside the Washington bubble. Trump made fun of him in the debates for looking right into the camera and talking to the people at home, calling that a politician’s trick. But Biden is hoping he can reach people like the Georgians who abandoned Trump since voting for him on November 3, or those who maybe looked away from the cable coverage today to see the Trump-Pence lawn signs they still had up, and began to think about taking them down.
Trump is interested only in talking to those who already like him, and places value on people in direct proportion to how much they can do for him. Biden is never going to spend his days yelling at the TV about MSNBC coverage. He likes being told that he’s wonderful (most people do), but he builds his own faith in himself on the idea that he can win over those who do not agree with him.
Three days before the election, at a campaign stop outside Miami, I asked Harris whether she was worried about Trump trying to seize power if he lost. “I really do believe that the American people have a line that they will be unwilling to cross—and that line is, whoever they vote for, that there will be a respect for the election and the outcome, and they want a peaceful transfer of power, and they will stand for our democracy, whoever they vote for.” On Monday evening in Washington, I asked her if she would call what Republicans in Congress had planned—raising objections to the Electoral College results, as they were starting to do when the mob poured in—a coup. She was more succinct. “Let me just tell you something: We’re going to be inaugurated. Period.”
Biden will be hoping his vice president is correct: that there is a line the American people won’t cross, and that he and Harris will be inaugurated. Right now, though, they’re only sure of the second part.
“I am not concerned about my safety, security, or the inauguration. I’m not concerned,” Biden said today, stepping back toward reporters to add something to his prepared statement. “The American people are going to stand up, and stand up now. Enough is enough is enough.”