Listen to article
Many presidents in the World assume office in the grip of a crisis and the newest American President, Joe Biden faces at least five as he assumes his position as the leader of the most powerful Nation in the World. Business closures and rising unemployment have crippled the economy. Mass demonstrations for racial justice roil big cities. American democracy is in peril as evidenced by Republican attempts to overturn the election and the mob that sacked the United States Capitol on the 6th of January.
He acknowledged this in his inaugural address on the 20th of January, 2021. He spoke to an America that feels perhaps more deeply divided than at any time since Abraham Lincoln delivered his speech in 1865, when the Confederate rebellion was ravaging America.
During his campaign Mr Biden vowed to restore America’s soul. Figuratively, this is a daunting task after what Donald Trump did to America. His supporters vandalised the Capitol thereby triggering an impeachment trial against him. At least 25,000 members of the armed forces were stationed in Washington DC (more than the number of soldiers currently deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined) to secure the peaceful transition of power. And for the first time in 150 years, the outgoing president skipped the ceremony. To worsen matters, more than 80% of Mr Trump’s supporters believe his damaging lie that the election was stolen.
Absolutely, Mr Biden looks well suited to the work at hand. He assumes the presidency after nearly half a century in government. He is a conciliatory elder statesman who may serve only one term, not a culture warrior hellbent on securing re-election. His cadre of experienced appointees will immediately wield the tools of the administrative state to undo much of the damage that Donald Trump caused. Harsh immigration policies will be lifted. The drive to weaken environmental protections will be reversed. European allies jittery about America’s commitment to mutual defence and combating climate change will be reassured.
Americans are very future-oriented people, so President Joe Biden will have to focus on how his administration can help right wrongs and provide access to jobs, healthcare and other infrastructural benefits that Americans deserve. Last week, he called on Congress to pass a $1.9tn economic stimulus package that includes $1,400 checks to Americans and funding to mobilise an unprecedented vaccination campaign. Democrats unexpectedly won a pair of runoff races in Georgia, handing the party control of the Senate. Now the Senate will be divided evenly between the two parties, with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a tie-breaking vote. A unified government gives Biden significantly more latitude to pursue an expansive legislative agenda and more freedom to fill his cabinet and judicial vacancies. Even so, Biden faces an uphill struggle enacting his legislative agenda. Congress has been mired in gridlock over immigration, healthcare and government spending for years.
Already, Republicans, suddenly concerned once again about the national deficit, have signalled unease with the size of his relief package. Biden has spent much of his 50-year career in the political mainstream, evolving as the centre of gravity moved, with his party marching leftward on issues of crime, abortion and immigration. Some have argued that his reputation as a consensus-minded institutionalist may help push through more liberal policies but President Biden himself has envisioned an FDR-sized presidency, outlining a massive economic agenda that he presented as a pragmatic response, given the scale of crises.
Much of Mr Biden’s agenda—the parts related to taxation and spending could be passed through reconciliation. The Relief-financial packages, the clean-energy investment plan, enhanced unemployment insurance and child tax credits look achievable. So does the promised repeal of many of Mr Trump’s tax cuts. But other ambitious ideas may fall victim to internecine Democratic squabbles, including a carbon tax, lowering the Medicare eligibility age, expanding subsidies for child care, and some student-loan forgiveness.
Most pressing will be restoring relations with allies in NATO and elsewhere after a frosty four years. An arms-control treaty with Russia expiring in February will force hasty negotiations. Plans will have to be made to fulfil Mr Biden’s pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. But the biggest foreign-policy matter to loom over the Biden administration will be managing great-power competition with China. Indeed, there is no indication when or even if Mr Biden would lift the tariffs put in place on Chinese goods. Unlike Mr Trump’s fixation on bilateral trade deficits, these will instead be justified on grounds of human-rights abuse, theft of intellectual property and climate change.
Biden has also signalled that he plans to work extensively with Congress, aiming to build on his knowledge of the institution and his personal rapport with senators to attract bipartisan support.
Even if his drama-free approach to governance does help calm the body politic, substantive ideological and policy differences remain – both between and within the political parties. For now, Biden has sought to overcome these differences by seeking counsel from across the political spectrum, including Republicans and progressives.
More than an ideology, Biden has focused on experience as he assembled his cabinet and White House Staff. His cabinet also reflects unprecedented racial and gender diversity. Part of Biden’s legacy, after serving eight years as the Vice-president to the first Black president, will be elevating Harris to the vice-presidency.
The spectre of Mr Trump will linger. The new administration may have to get through his impeachment trial which would be the first to be held after a president has left office. Mr Biden, who has tried to stay above the partisan fray on the efforts, worries that a Senate engrossed in evidence against his predecessor for alleged high crimes will dally in confirming his nominees and debating his covid-relief package.
Whether or not Mr Trump is convicted, the damage done by his presidency is deep. Nearly 70% of American voters think members of the other party are ‘a threat to the United States and its people, and analysis shows that 50% conclude that they are ‘downright evil’. Such feelings predate Mr Trump and indeed created the conditions for his ascent. His innovation was to emphasise white grievance and add a dangerous strain of disbelief in the legitimacy of elections. Having shattered norms like the belief in democracy and the non-violent transition of power, Mr Trump cannot be counted on to adhere to the lesser professional courtesy of refraining from criticising his successor. He did not shy away from inflaming racial animus or culture wars while in office. It would be naive to expect more dignity having left it, as he eyes a comeback in 2024.
Amidst all these, President Joe Biden is a leader that many people and countries alike are looking up to. This is a very critical time in the annals of the United States’ history and only Joe Biden can make or mar the highlights of the issues on ground. Saddled with a lot of responsibilities, he has to make sure that he sets things right while keeping it in mind that a lot of Americans and other citizens of the World are looking up to his wonderful leadership.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK