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"A very, very, very dark winter": Biden warns Americans of pain his presidency will inherit

America got quite a respiteyesterday from this bleak year: A woman of colorbecame the first American to get the COVID vaccine; Democracy worked, as the Electoral College voted in 50 state capitals; And President-elect Biden called on the nation to "turn the page."

Yes, but: Bidenis trying to prepare us for what incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow will be "a very, very, very dark winter," with "probably tens of thousands of deaths left before the end of the year."

  • Biden said as he celebrated the certification of his victory: "My heart goes out to all of you in this dark winter of the pandemic, about to spend the holidays and the new year with a black hole in your hearts."

Why it matters: Biden and his team want Americans to reckon with the pain — they use the word "dark" a lot — he'll inherit. It also sets up the possibility of hope — and light — in 2021 if the virus fades and jobs rebound. 

  • Not to be a bummer, but several people around Biden worry the light is farther away than most think, which could hamper his presidency. 

In addition to the COVID death toll that passed 300,000 yesterday, and likely will accelerate in the weeks ahead, there's the mounting financial devastation. These are among the looming cliffs that will beset Biden:

  • Pandemic unemployment benefits for millions expire Dec. 26.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index, out today, finds that small businesses "anticipate the worst of the pandemic is still ahead": 50% of the 1,000 entrepreneurs polled "see their operations continuing for a year or less in the current business climate before having to permanently close."
  • Foreclosure and eviction moratoriums expire Dec. 31: "Between 2.4 million and 5 million American households are at risk in January alone," The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

The big picture: Biden will take office with thousands of people dying daily, full vaccination months away, President Trump taunting him from the Twitter sidelines, the government rattled by an epic cyberattack, China asserting its power, and Americans divided like never before. To the victor goes the spoils.

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