From back in 2019, when Joe Biden released a video announcing his decision to run for president for a third time, the headlines positioned him as the “return to normalcy” candidate. “Joe Biden’s presidency could make America normal again,” screamed The New York Post and The Boston Globe blared, “Biden inauguration promised return to normalcy”.
“Back to normal with Biden,” chimed countless pundits, proclaiming “The Biden Era Is the Return to Normal”.
And indeed, Biden built his presidential campaign (almost) exclusively on normalcy. Even Biden’s old boss, Barack Obama, even said as much last November, “(Joe) will restore a bunch of norms.”
But isn’t a return to normal also a return to the past? Of course it is, and for Democrats, to a time before Donald Trump.
To a time when the labor force participation rate plummeted faster than any time in U.S. history under the Obama administration, instead of to the time when jobless claims hit a 50 year low during the Trump administration.
To a time when the average real income of the poorest one-fifth of American families was declining every year, during the Obama administration, instead to the time under the Trump administration when the average, middle-class family saw their household income rise nearly $6,000 (more than five times the gains during the entire Obama administration).
To a time when the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. were among African-Americans and Hispanics under the Obama administration, and not to the time when the unemployment rates for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and those without a high school diploma reached record lows under the Trump administration.
To a time when enrollment in the food stamps program reached its highest point in U.S. history during the Obama administration, and not to the time when the number of Americans needing food stamps declined by 7 million under the Trump administration.
To a time when African Americans saw their lowest homeownership rates in 25 years under Obama, and not to the time African American homeownership increased 10% under Trump.
To a time when the gap between the rich and poor widened more than at any time in our nation’s history, under Obama, and not to the time when the bottom 50 percent of American households saw a 40 percent increase in net worth, with wages rising fastest for low-income and blue-collar workers under Trump.
To a time where energy costs were rising and energy development was stifled during the Obama administration, and not to the time when the U.S. became energy independent under the Trump administration – something that presidents for over 50 years have sought to achieve for our national security.
To a time of ever-increasing levels of violence, chaos, and diminished U.S. influence in the Middle East under Obama, and not to the time of the Middle East peace agreements under Trump.
To a time when a CNN poll found that a majority of Americans felt relations between blacks and whites had worsened under Obama, and not to the time when a Gallup poll found that race relations had actually improved more than 50% at the end of the Trump administration, compared to when Trump first took office.
So, if this was what Biden meant when he promised, after last November’s election, that “Life is going to return to normal,” I think his voters will be surprised, and disappointed, of just how “normal” life will soon become for them, and their fellow Americans, both liberal and conservative alike.
You see, Biden has taken deliberate care to appoint Obama administration veterans to his Cabinet and in senior positions, to make it all feel quite “normal” again, and to move away from the political outsiders that made the Trump administration feel anything but normal.
But is that what we want, then?
Normal is conforming. Usual. Typical. Routine.
This isn’t who we are, as a country, though. Our nation would never have been founded if the 56 men signing the Declaration of Independence had accepted conforming to England’s demands. Martin Luther King, Jr. would never have achieved so many of his historic accomplishments if he surrendered to what was the usual or typical. Ronald Reagan would not have ended the Cold War if all he thought possible was what was normal.
But if we stick with what feels normal – if we keep doing what we’ve been doing all these years – won’t we keep getting what we’ve been getting?
And you’re good with that?
Or is it just more important for everything to feel normal again?