It’s looking pretty good today that Joe Biden will be the (presumptive) President-Elect within a day or two. Our long national nightmare is almost over.
(Well, except for the fact that tens of millions of people voted for racist impeached Donald Trump and his fascist ideology this month. We’re going to be living with that horror for the rest of our lives.)
Biden is no liberal’s ideal President, but he represents bringing competence and professionalism back to the executive branch, and showing Trump’s ineptitude and grifting the door. That’s certainly worth something. But Biden and his team have a lot of work ahead of them, which will be complicated if the do-nothing Republicans hold the Senate. (Why do we elect people to government who don’t believe in governing? sigh) The first hundred days are often seen as a bellwether for how well an administration hits the ground running, and Biden is going to have a lot to do. Here are some of the things I see him having to deal with in his first three months:
Getting all the bugs out of the White House: Trump and his people have been incompetent grifters, and there’s good reason that he personally – if not his sycophants – is deeply beholden to Vladimir Putin and perhaps others. The access he’s surely given to many of America’s enemies, as well as his rampant (here’s that word again) incompetence likely means that many of the executive branch’s physical assets (buildings, computers, maybe even personnel) are likely deeply compromised to those enemies. I have no idea what will be involved here, but I bet Biden’s team will be deploying a legion of people to make the White House secure again. We’ll probably never hear (well, not in my lifetime) just how bad things were, but there’s going to be a lot of taxpayer money spent fixing these security holes.
Besides which we’ll probably be hearing for years about state secrets the Trumpists sold during his term.
Implementing a federal response to COVID-19: The Trumpanistas have been famously inept at responding to COVID-19, and by the time Trump leaves office (angels sing) over a quarter of a million Americans will have died from the virus, many of which deaths could have been preventable with even a barely competent response. There’s probably not a more urgent crisis facing the nation today. There will likely be a high-profile component of this effort – for example, executive orders and public relations campaigns around physical distancing and masks – but the real work will be behind the scenes, restoring the compromised government agencies which respond to pandemics, installing leaders who work from the science, coordinating logistics to provide support and supplies.
Perhaps most importantly, the federal government will be crucial to deploying a vaccine across the nation once it’s available. Trump was so incompetent that if he’d been reelected, I fully expected his ineptitude would have delayed effective distribution by a year or more. Having a basically competent administration in place means we might be able to end quarantine sometime in 2021 or early 2022 (which is what Dr. Fauci has been estimating). Under Trump it would have probably been 2023, and with lots more death before then. (I’m sure Fauci was keenly aware of this risk, but there was no value in him coming out and saying it.)
Financial support to people affected by the pandemic: This is more in Congress’ wheelhouse, and so far it’s done a terrible job of supporting the millions who have been rendered unemployed and who have lost their health insurance.
If the Republicans retain control of the Senate then I think we can forget about significant aid to ordinary Americans in the next two years. But there may still be measures that Biden can take using his executive authority. After all, Trump tried to redirect funds to his lunatic anti-immigration policies, so perhaps Biden can do something similar to provide aid to Americans. This is incredibly important, but also incredibly hard without Congressional action.
Brexit: One of our closest allies, the United Kingdom, is also being led by an incompetent grifter (Prime Minister Boris Johnson), and is currently in the throes of disconnecting itself from its closest allies and economic partners, the European Union. The U.K. has been waiting for the results of the U.S. election (for what, it’s unclear), but the U.S. can have some influence – perhaps a profound influence – on shaping Brexit, even at this late date, as well as influencing how the U.K. and our other allies interact with each other after Brexit. Brexit is also going to be a huge tragedy for many U.K. citizens, and is likely to lead to further upheaval (Scotland is likely to pursue leaving the U.K. again, and it’s really unclear what’s going to happen with Northern Ireland). A sane U.S. government can help mitigate some of that upheaval. This is not to say that we’re going to – or should – swoop in and be saviors, but doing what we can to prevent the worst from happening to our oldest ally seems like the rational and humane thing to do.
Rebuilding our reputation with the rest of the world: Trump has badly damaged America’s standing in the world with his racist, narcissistic, isolationist behavior. We’re no longer the de facto leader of the western world – and it’s not clear who is. Germany, by default, perhaps. Biden has the opportunity to start rebuilding our influence in and trust of the world. But it’s going to be a long road: America has elected one xenophobic nutjob, and could easily do so again, so it’s only natural that our allies make contingency plans for when they can’t rely on us. This is a project which is likely to last longer than Biden’s term in office, but the global culture we live in makes it essential that we play a role in it.
Meanwhile, many other western nations sees America’s democracy as rather backwards. That’s not something Biden can fix, nor is it something we’re likely to fix any time soon, but it doesn’t help our reputation and efforts to improve our standing, either.
Wrapping up, Trump has left Biden and America in a deep, deep hole, and it’s going to take a lot of work and time to dig out of it. Biden might only be a one-term President as he’ll be almost 82 when the 2024 elections arrive, but he has the opportunity to lead America through one of the greatest crises it’s faced since World War II. I don’t know whether he’s up to the task, but he’s the one whose task it is. So, we shall see.
But at least now we have hope. With Trump, there was none.