Congratulations, President Harris (pronouns: she/her)! At last, the United States of Mutual Loathing will lead the world by having a female president, just like lots of other countries managed decades ago, and without making a dumb fuss or giving a patronizing lecture.
And thank you, Joe Biden (pronouns: he/c’mon man), for accepting the presidency on Kamala’s behalf on the kind of raw day when you should be indoors with a tartan blanket on your legs and the remote in your hand. And thank you to our new surgeon-general, Dr Jill, for propping him up, making sure he stayed awake, and reminding him not to sniff Lady Gaga’s hair.
This inauguration looked less like Joe Biden’s big day than a dress rehearsal for his state funeral. The elderly audience was spaced like the crowd on the bleachers of a failing minor-league team. The speeches, with Amy Klobuchar emceeing with the gravitas of a principal at PTA night, sounded like a motivational lecture from a parallel universe. The turns, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez, were a senior’s idea of what the kids would like. Both comported themselves with MILF-like dignity. So did Doug Emhoff, who appeared to be wearing an outsized PVC bondage mask.
Administrations are meant to look exhausted on their way out, not their way in. But the elderly Democrats on the stage on Wednesday looked exhausted — worn down by Trump, worn down by their manufactured hatred for him, worn down by the fear and failures of COVID, worn down by the burden of wealth. And no one looks more worn down and less likely to step up than Joe Biden.
The networks have been gushing about the restoration all week, apart from Fox, which is having a nervous breakdown. So Biden’s speech will be described as a triumphant call for ‘unity’ and a return to normality, even though the unanimous follies and corrupt normality of the Biden class are what created the Trump presidency in the first place. Make no mistake: the professionals are back, as rich, entitled and useless as ever.
Say what you like about Trump’s ‘American carnage’ speech, but at least it caught the imagination. Biden approached the mic with the resolve of a man who’s had a double dose of denture paste and a little blue pill, but his speech was the usual blue-rinsed anticlimax.
Two paragraphs of coherence before the left side of his mouth drops down like he’s having a mini-stroke. Twenty minutes of gasping and croaking, the words sliding out of the other side of his mouth without rhythm or sense, the pin eyes visibly lost and fearful. And the inevitable flubs and malapropisms — ‘rural and Ural’ instead of ‘rural and urban’. Xi and Putin and Rouhani will be quaking in their boots, once they stop laughing.
A great politician knows how to lie. Biden doesn’t even know what he’s saying. Perhaps it would have gone better if he’d said it 30 years ago. Perhaps it would have gone faster if Hunter had chopped one out for him before showtime. It was a slow agony, a taste of the short and pratfall-filled presidency to come.
What Americans need is jobs, schools, healthcare and halfway reliable elections. What we got was Wheezy Joe getting weirdly angry about the need for sub-religious healing, how racism is finally over, and how American democracy, which is a bad joke at home and a laughing-stock abroad, is actually invincible and the global future. And also the Pledge of Allegiance delivered with sign language in a sort of politically-correct TikTok dance.
The rest of the world was told that American is back — a promise sure to alarm the US’s friends more than it comforts its enemies — and that the US is going to lead the world again. But the world doesn’t want American leadership. It doesn’t want anything from America at all, really, apart from rap music and porn. It doesn’t want the American normal either. Even the Americans are sick of that.
This was an old, tired speech from a lifer in an old, tired system. It was as the Biden presidency shall be: a placeholder for that short interlude before the American oligarchy resumes the hardening of its defenses against its subjects: before the Harris presidency, before the corporatist cash-out that is the Green New Deal, before the domestic terrorism legislation which will turn the failures of the War on Terror into the successful repression of free speech, one of the only things that America still produces. So help us God.