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opinion

He’s always been discounted. Joseph Robinette Biden was written off after first running for president in 1988. He had to humiliatingly withdraw after being accused of plagiarism.

He was written off again after running in 2008 and dropping out while receiving only single-digit support. But he ended up being Barack Obama’s choice for vice-president.

He was written off in 2020 when, on entering the presidential race, he appeared to be bombing yet again with dismal showings in the early primaries. Lo and behold, he went on to win the presidency.

But in his first year in office, his support numbers tanked so badly that the pundits, myself included, said he was on the road to a resounding defeat in this fall’s midterm elections.

Hardly anyone is saying that now. Once again, Joe Biden is staging a remarkable bounce back, reversing the tide of his presidency and, in the process, stirring hope that he can reverse the tide of the United States.

He’s sharply increased his support numbers, scored important legislative victories and positioned his Democrats to do well in the critically important midterm elections in November. The incumbent party habitually loses the midterms, but oddsmakers now see the Democrats as a good bet to retain control of the Senate. If momentum continues to go their way, they could hold on to the House as well.

With a win, Mr. Biden could drive a stake into the gut of a Republican party engulfed by unhinged Trumpian forces. This would be great news for multitudes, the majority of Canadians included – an exception being many in Pierre Poilievre’s Conservative camp who imbibe the ultraright Kool-Aid.

Given our dependence on the health and wealth of our neighbour, given that Joe Biden’s values align well with this country’s, and most of all given the very real threat to democratic stability posed by the alternative, we badly need him to succeed.

Just how serious the threat has become was apparent at a recent weekend rally in Youngstown, Ohio. There, Donald Trump appeared to join hands with the crackpot QAnon conspiracist cult. He backgrounded his speech with music resembling the QAnon theme hymn. While it played, thousands in attendance held out their right arm, with forefingers pointed, as if in an eerie trance. Earlier, he reposted an image of himself wearing a Q pin.

Even though the Republicans have descended deeper into the netherworld of the alt-right and election deniers and manic elements, the Democrats have been at pains to make gains. But then an emotional earthquake struck. The political winds suddenly changed with the conservative-dominated Supreme Court’s decision in June to reverse its 1973 ruling securing abortion rights. In a blitz of poetic justice for the GOP, that decision has politically backfired.

As political analyst Bill Schneider said: “You cannot take rights away from Americans – whether abortion rights or civil rights or gun rights – without creating fierce political backlash.”

In the same period, gasoline prices eased and Mr. Biden passed a bipartisan gun-reform bill. He sent massive aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russia, and his armed forces killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Congressional hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, as well as other disturbing developments (the whereabouts of certain classified documents, for example), further discredited Mr. Trump.

Then, there was Mr. Biden’s passage of a far-reaching, US$750-billion health care, tax and climate bill that earlier seemed dead.

Among other things, this stopped the U.S. from being a laggard on climate change on this continent and, in a further benefit for Ottawa, allowed Canada to qualify for hefty tax credits on American-made electric vehicles.

In the upcoming midterms, Republicans just need one more seat in the Senate and five in the House to gain control and give authoritarian populism an even greater lease on American life.

Recent polls show voters moving in the Democrats’ direction. But between now and the November election, surprise developments, such as potential criminal charges being laid against Mr. Trump, could have major repercussions one way or the other. There’s also the possibility of Republicans not accepting a win by Democrats. Many candidates, following Mr. Trump’s lead in claiming the 2020 election result was fraudulent, are already indicating they will not.

It’s alarming. When people say democracy is hanging by a thread in what was once considered a citadel of democracy, it’s no joke.

These dire circumstances make the presidency of the old man in the Oval Office one of the most consequential in history. His story is one of resurgence. Is it ever needed now.