The challenge — and the opportunity — for Joe Biden is that he succeeds the worst president in U.S. history.

Donald Trump’s tenure was characterized by colossal incompetence and mind-numbing indifference to the public good. His coronavirus management has resulted in more than 24.1 million cases in the United States and almost 400,000 deaths — projected to exceed 500,000 deaths by May. While overseeing arguably the worst loss of life since the great influenza of 1918, Trump also presided over the worst unemployment since the Great Depression. He is the first president in modern history to see a net loss of jobs during his time in office.

Those bare figures — catastrophic as they are — barely begin to plumb the depths of Trump’s failures, which were moral as much as managerial.

He was the most dishonest president ever: He produced more than 30,000 documented falsehoods.

He was the most corrupt president ever. He used his office to enrich his businesses, interfered in Justice Department investigations, engaged in obstruction of justice, stonewalled Congress, refused to release his tax returns, purged inspectors-general and pardoned his cronies and co-conspirators.

He was the most openly racist president in modern times — arguably since Woodrow Wilson. He consistently tried to fire up his White base with bigotry against people of color. His actions too often matched his vile words — most notoriously when he ordered the children of undocumented immigrants separated from their parents.

He was the first president who refused to accept election defeat or propagated bizarre conspiracy theories to undermine confidence in the electoral system.

He became the only president ever impeached twice — once for trying to blackmail Ukraine into helping him politically, the second time for inciting a violent insurrection to try to stay in office.

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Early on Jan. 6, The Post's Kate Woodsome saw signs of violence hours before thousands of former president Donald Trump loyalists besieged the Capitol. (The Washington Post)

He leaves office with only 34 percent approval in the Gallup poll after having been the first president never to crack 50 percent support since the advent of Gallup polling.

Because of Trump’s calamitous and costly failures, Biden will take office with hardly anyone present to watch his inauguration in a city that now has more U.S. troops than there are in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Biden will lead a nation where 75 percent of Republicans do not think he was fairly elected because they have bought into the Big Lie spread by Trump and the right-wing propaganda machine, who will continue to undermine and abuse him at every turn.

The new president will face monumental challenges that exceed those of any incoming president since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Not only must Biden stop a pandemic and revive an economy, but he must address global warming, income inequality, racial injustice, restore confidence in government, reinvigorate the rule of law, return ethics to government, decrease divisions in U.S. society and depoliticize government agencies.

It’s a daunting, nearly overwhelming to-do list. But, paradoxically, by taking over at such a low point in our history, Biden is set up for success.

His biggest advantage is that highly effective vaccines for covid-19 already exist — something that would have been hard to imagine when the pandemic started a year ago. The Trump administration deserves some credit for devoting the resources to developing those vaccines, but it characteristically botched their rollout.

If the Biden administration shows even minimal competence — and there is every reason to expect a high degree of competence from this experienced team — it will be able to ramp up distribution rapidly. Indeed, the situation is already improving. Roughly 800,000 Americans are now being vaccinated a day, up from 350,000 a day in early January. Biden has set a goal of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days. That is not only achievable— given the current trajectory — but we are likely to exceed it.

It is reasonable to expect that, barring mutant strains that defy vaccination, the coronavirus will be vanquished this year. And, as the pandemic disappears, the economy will revive. Those two major victories should set up Biden for a highly successful first year in office — and buy him time to address long-standing challenges that will not be easily fixed.

Simply by not calling his critics traitors, inciting violence, sending demented tweets, spreading cockamamie conspiracy theories, or branding the media the “enemy of the people,” Biden will start to heal a fractured and traumatized country. He will never win over the Trump die-hards, but he is already gaining the support of the broad middle of the country. His approval rating is higher than Trump’s ever was. In a new CNN poll, two-thirds of Americans approve of the way Biden is handling the transition.

Thanks, President Trump. By being so awful, you have all but guaranteed that Biden will be far more successful by comparison.

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