- - Friday, January 29, 2021

There are some in Washington who believe that the end of 2020 and the departure of Donald Trump signals a return to some form of political normalcy. Pundits, politicos and policymakers beware. America is yet again in uncharted territory. We have entered the era of the multipolar presidency. 

Questions are swirling about which Joe Biden the nation elected: the driven yet amiable moderate of decades past, or an automaton beholden to his party’s ascendent left wing. The factions currently competing for his attention and the public’s will ultimately decide this administration’s course and destiny.

Notable among our ex-presidents, Nixon focused on rehabilitating his image and contributing substantively to the American foreign policy discussion. Gerald Ford played golf. Bill Clinton made money. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush all largely stayed out of politics, dedicating their time outside of the office to philanthropy. Times have changed.

The argument that the Biden administration is President Barack Obama’s third term is not simply a Republican talking point. Barack Obama is our first truly activist former president in more than a century. 

His strength and influence within the Democratic Party remain profound. In 2020, the former president and his old attorney general, Eric Holder, spearheaded an effort to win statehouses for the Democrats in order to wrest control of decennial redistricting out of Republican hands. Off the campaign trail, Mr. Obama’s acolytes are just as loyal. Many are now ensconced in the West Wing — and remain close to a former commander in chief more than willing to speak his mind. 

Mr. Biden’s victory put Team Obama in a position to directly influence policy. Susan Rice, John Kerry, Janet Yellen, former chief of staff Denis McDonough, and others all have ready access to the Oval Office. The Biden White House operates as if the 44th president is still walking its halls. 

Then there’s former President Trump, who is very likely already climbing the walls of his Mar-a-Lago residence, aching to get back into the game as he seeks revenge against those deemed insufficiently loyal. Mr. Trump’s following on the right is so strong, in fact, that his staunchest supporters will likely never accept a Biden presidency as legitimate. This Republican Party faction will act accordingly while it hangs on his every utterance. 

Expect Mr. Trump to creatively find ways to counter the Biden message while threatening Republican leadership with primary challenges, setting up a dangerous escalation that could reasonably dent the popularity of the new administration but splinter the GOP in the process. 

Donald Trump risks becoming the Teddy Roosevelt of our time — not the TR of the “strenuous life,” Square Deal, and trust-busting but the brilliant-yet-fractious personality who launched a third party and unwittingly ushered Woodrow Wilson and the permanent administrative state into the nation’s capital. That didn’t end well for Republicans. 

Vice President Harris will add to the ongoing uncertainty. At 78, Mr. Biden is likely to serve only one term, meaning Kamala Harris is already circling him like a buzzard. With the tie-breaking vote in a 50-50 Senate and an ability to placate the Democrats’ liberal base, look for the ambitious Ms. Harris to play an outsized role for a veep in crafting legislative strategy. 

Unlike a traditional “team of rivals,” the Biden administration’s unofficial presidential power-sharing will not only diminish the office, it stands to make our politics more muddled, more confusing, and more divisive. That’s great news for the chaos profiteers in the Left’s media and Big Tech echo chamber, but it may also end up further eroding our confidence in an already damaged system. The self-interested factions surrounding Biden will make a weak president appear even weaker, with long-term implications for the health of our democratic institutions. Welcome to the multipolar presidency.

• Tom Basile, host of Newsmax Television’s “America Right Now,” is an author and adjunct professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences where he teaches earned media strategy.

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