Historians of the future will have much to say about how Trumpism, an extreme form of right-wing populism, brought populism closer to fascism and dictatorship, but they will also research how and why Trump was overwhelmingly rejected in late 2020. A record number of Americans, more than 81 million citizens, were united by their rejection of Trumpism.

To paraphrase the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, these voters were not united by love but by horror. The current question that applies to the present of the United States and to the future of countries like Brazil, India, El Salvador or Hungary, is, can politics be done only with the fear of the imperfect past?

On the one hand, Biden faces an unprecedented health and economic crisis. On the other hand, the president-elect has to resolve a political crisis that, in certain terms, has already been seen in the past. How to rebuild democracy and generate support within a popular electoral front that elected Biden for not being Trump?

For Biden, it will not be enough to be honest, not be racist and discriminatory or simply to avoid the permanent scandal, the constant lies and total manipulation of the electronic media landscape (twitter in particular) and the Trumpist demonization of the media. Biden will need to expand democracy.

He will have to help improve the living, health, and education conditions of the population in order to meaningfully represent his voters and not return to the inertia of the past. A sanitary cordon, as the case of France shows for example with the Le Pen candidacies, is not enough to maintain long-term support.

To be sure, many anti-Trumpists warned about the dictatorial danger and the risk of fascism that Trumpism represented, but many times this criticisms proposed an alternative myth, an idealized version of historical exceptionalism, the idea of a normality before Trump that, in fact, never was so normal.

The pre-Trump era also had various forms of elitism. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama gave a predominant role to technocracy. Other features were the heavy-handed use of police force and criminalization tactics by Bill Clinton and his deregulation of Wall Street and the banks, or the lack of action or even the adoption of sometimes regressive measures by the Obama administration with respect to immigrants, the continuity of police repression (we need to recall here the infamous so called Crime Bill of 1994) and the gruesome increase of mass incarceration (especially for minorities), the privatization of public education via the promotion of Charter schools and many other problems that alienated many citizens from the Democratic party.

If the brand new Biden administration decides to consider Trumpism as a mere parenthesis, we will witness a decline in the great support Biden has obtained. The same can happen, if Biden does not support the work of justice in the investigation of the possible criminal actions of the outgoing populist leader.

The same bar applies to Biden’s future foreign policy and the reconfiguration or not of the relationship between the United States and democratic and authoritarian leaders. Under Trumpism, the former were relegated while the latter were enabled, and often glorified. Under Biden, a rapprochement with the European Community is predictable, but what will happen to Trump's accomplices on a global level.

What will be Biden’s policy with Jair Bolsonaro's tropical Trumpism in Brazil? What will his actions be with regards to the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela or the kingdom of Saudi Arabia?

Doing nothing is not a viable option. But there is always the possibility that Donald Trump does not disappear from the scene, reminding a majority of citizens of the failures of his government. Only one American president, Grover Cleveland, lost his re-election in 1888, but then defeated President Benjamin Harrison who had previously defeated him and returned to the White House after a four year break from power. But unlike Trump, Cleveland won the majority of the popular vote in all three of his presidential elections, while Trump was always a president rejected by the majority.

In any case, Trump can give Biden a few months of short respite, a break from what it needs to be done. The very fact that Trump, and to a diminishing extent the Republican Party, are still denying the democratic outcome of the election should be a warning against the urgency to declare the past four years a mere parenthesis in an otherwise healthy democracy.

American democracy must be improved and expanded in social, economic, and political terms. After the end of the Latin American Cold War dictatorships, as had happened in Europe after the end of the fascist regimes in 1945, these “parenthesis” positions put forward by many, including high-profile intellectuals, turned out to be wrong and naive as various forms of authoritarianism and xenophobia continued and continue to emerge on both sides of the Atlantic.

American history, like any other history, presents patterns of national and global continuity and change. Thinking of fascism or populist authoritarianism as an aberration, and not as expressions of strong local and global tendencies, can present a strong barrier to the work of democratic reconstruction that is necessary to uproot them.

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