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Trump Tower? No, think Biden municipal swimming pool now

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President-elect Joe Biden loves trains and his hometown station in Wilmington has been named after him./AFP
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Dec 10, 2020 - 10:57 AM

WILMINGTON — Donald Trump has high-rise towers named after him around the world. And Joe Biden? A municipal swimming pool in Delaware.

A visit to the president-elect’s modest — some would say dull — hometown of Wilmington illustrates the intense shift in atmosphere coming to the White House with the change of power this January.

After four years of Trump, a fan of gold faucets and self-declared “greatest” at just about everything, in comes a man whom local resident Shelly Baker calls “great” mainly because he’s a lot like other people in down-to-earth Wilmington.

“Everyone here just calls him Joe. ‘Regular Joe,'” Baker, 63, said admiringly as she waited for a glimpse of the president-elect following one of his daily transition team events downtown.

Trump has emblazoned his name in huge capital letters — often in gold for good measure — on buildings and swanky properties all the way from Las Vegas to Scotland.

In New York City alone there’s Trump Tower, Trump World Tower, Trump Plaza, The Trump Building, Trump Parc, Trump Park Avenue and Trump International Hotel and Tower.

Then there are the Trump books, like “Trump: How to Get Rich,” the Trump golf courses, Trump casinos and more.

So enamored is the Republican with his own name that he has a habit of referring during speeches to “Trump” in the third person, as if standing back to admire himself.

So what about Biden?

He’s been a US senator for nearly four decades and vice president under Barack Obama, so he’s hardly unknown. But in the self-promotion stakes, the vibe couldn’t be more different.

Take the three most prominent Biden landmarks found in Delaware:

– Joseph R. Biden Jr. Aquatic Center (the Wilmington swimming pool where he worked as a lifeguard in his youth).

– Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station (Wilmington’s Amtrak stop, which the soon-to-be 46th president used every day while in the Senate to get back to his family at night).

– And last but not least, the Biden Welcome Center, a stopoff with toilets and fast food for motorists on the Interstate-95 motorway.

Town resembles president-elect 

Wilmington, population less than 71,000, mirrors the man promising to deliver Americans a soothing rest after four years of Trump turbulence.

The town isn’t famous for much — most people just drive by on their way along I-95 between Washington and New York.

Its principal economic role as a tax-friendly destination for companies to incorporate doesn’t exactly translate into excitement.

Efforts are underway to revitalize the depressed downtown, but much of the area remains gloomy and dangerous. Pawn shops, bail bond agents and boarded-up windows are a common sight around The Queen Theater, which Biden’s transition team has made the center of its operations.

The wealthier side of town features a seemingly endless succession of churches, traffic lights and car dealerships, before merging into neighborhoods of leafy, winding lanes where Biden’s residence is located.

“It’s not like Miami or like New York,” said downtown clothing store manager Toya Darcey.

But, the 32-year-old added: “It feels good that he’s from here.”

Grounded 

To say that Biden is grounded in Wilmington is no exaggeration.

His son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015, is buried at Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic church. So are Biden’s first wife Neilia and their infant daughter, Naomi, killed in a 1972 car crash.

Over the years, the cemetery and church, where Biden regularly attends Mass, have become as much part of the incoming president’s identity as glitzy Manhattan and Florida are to Trump.

A makeshift shrine at the base of Neilia and Naomi’s tombstone, apparently left by well-wishers, includes a Covid mask and rain-sodden copy of the New York Post tabloid declaring “IT’S JOE TIME” after his election victory.

Unlike Trump, who played down Covid-19 restrictions to hold multiple large rallies around the country, Biden spent much of his campaign livestreaming from the basement of his home.

Trump endlessly mocked this approach, but the homely video backdrop of books, family photos and memorabilia like American flags fed into the idea that Biden is relatable — a solid local guy who did well.

“Even if he’s been a lifelong politician,” Baker said, “I could trust Biden with my life.”

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