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History | Geography | Citizenship | PSHE

Biden promises era of light after darkness

Is this a new chapter in our history? Donald Trump has often been likened to the ruthless populist leader Julius Caesar. Now many see Joe Biden as a new Cicero – defender of civic ideals. “I sought this office to restore the soul of America”. “This is a time to heal in America”. Promises that Joe Biden made to his people as soon as it became clear this weekend that he would be the next President of the USA. Thousands took to the streets to celebrate the end of an era. Biden and Kamala Harris have broken dozens of records. They won 74 million votes, more than any other presidential ticket in history. And Biden’s dog, Major, will be the first rescue dog in the White House. That is, if the previous occupant can be evicted in time for the inauguration on January 20th. Trump has still refused to concede the election. When Biden’s victory was announced, he was playing golf in Virginia. Now it is up to his son-in-law Jared Kushner, one of the few to have escaped Trump’s wrath for the last four years, to persuade him to accept defeat. A cynic might suggest that the USA is just exchanging one old white man for another. But many pundits have pointed out the gulf between the two men. Trump is a property dealer who made his name as a TV star. He was the first president to enter office with neither political nor military experience. He is thin-skinned, angry, and notorious for episodes of bigotry. Biden was born in working-class Scranton in Pennsylvania. He has spent 47 years in public service. He has suffered personal tragedy and shows a natural empathy for other people’s suffering. The Trump era has often been compared with another reign cut short: the dictatorship of Julius Caesar in ancient Rome. Caesar made a name for himself outside politics and used it to catapult himself into the highest office in the Roman Republic. Once there, he dismantled constitutional checks, demeaned his opponents in the Senate and declared himself dictator for life. That term turned out to be briefer than anticipated. Just one month later, he was assassinated by senators who were trying to restore the Republic. Trump, likewise, used his celebrity to win the presidency. He showed scant respect for constitutional norms, or for his colleagues. And there is another important parallel. Caesar racked up enormous debts pursuing his political career. As dictator, he had legal immunity: his debtors could not prosecute him. Similarly, Trump could not be indicted for his huge business debts while he remained in office. If Trump is Caesar, then who is Biden? Scholars have likened him to the statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero: a self-made man from humble origins, a political moderate with respect for the law. After Caesar’s death, he fought to restore the Republic. Despite Cicero’s best efforts, the Roman Republic fell. Cicero himself was hacked to pieces, his head and hands publicly displayed in Rome. Biden must hope for better fortune. So, is this a new chapter in history? Caesar the day Yes, say some. Many Americans are scarred by the abuses of the Trump presidency. Hearing Biden reciting Seamus Heaney’s poem The Cure at Troy, it is hard not to believe in the coming of a new age of justice and, perhaps, joy. “History says, Don't hope/ On this side of the grave, But then, once in a lifetime/ The longed-for tidal wave/ Of justice can rise up/ And hope and history rhyme”. No, say others. While it is easy to portray Trump as a would-be dictator and Biden as the saviour of the constitutional republic, in fact Trump’s expansion of executive power is part of a trend begun in the 1980s. In fact, Barack Obama frequently pressed the boundaries of presidential authority, and Biden will likely do the same. Trump is gone, but the era of dictatorial presidencies is not over. KeywordsVirginia - A state on the east coast of the US.

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