Joe Biden: A Political Palate Cleanser
With a warm grin that elicits a “See, he seems like a decent fellow” from my mum, president-elect Joe Biden emerged victorious from a tumultuous election this past Saturday.
With a warm grin that elicits a “See, he seems like a decent fellow” from my mum, president-elect Joe Biden emerged victorious from a tumultuous election this past Saturday. As thousands pour into the street to celebrate his win over the current incumbent, President Donald Trump, we ought to turn our attention to the question of what, in broad strokes, we can expect from the 46th U.S. president. In my opinion, Biden is a bit like a spork—not ideal for soups or salads (in this case, far-left liberals or moderate conservatives), but also not completely ineffectual in dealing with either. And maybe that’s exactly what the U.S. needs right now.
Biden’s voting record from his years in the Senate suggests that he moves with his party, always squarely in the middle of the Democrats’ ideological spectrum. This willingness to shift is key: it’s indicative of his openness to change. Biden was no bastion of progressivism like many of the other more appealing candidates for the democratic nomination, and that’s the quality that makes him non-threatening to American moderates. Let’s face it: we live in a heavily individualistic democracy, and Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders would likely lose a U.S.-wide election to Trump faster than you could say “socialism.” With his openness to change, Biden is in a position to gradually, but successfully, enact Democratic legislation without raising alarm. For example, he doesn’t directly support the Green New Deal, a much-championed democratic proposal that has—somewhat rightfully—earned ridicule among conservatives for its lofty goals and lack of substantive policy. However, he has proposed a $2 trillion environmental plan that pledges to make America carbon neutral by 2050; it’s quieter and more gradual, but ultimately more likely to see implementation.
Furthermore, Biden has a fair bit of room to maneuver with regard to climate change and immigration policy through the use of executive orders. Most political analysts predict that Biden will not shy away from utilizing this tool, which enables the executive to make quick, drastic changes to temporarily steer the country in a specific direction, especially during a crisis, such as when Franklin Delano Roosevelt kickstarted The New Deal in 1933 through the Civil Works Administration in order to deal with the Great Depression. The Economist Editor-in-Chief Zanny Beddoes states she’s “certain there will be a lot of undoing of President Trump’s executive orders…undoing in the regulatory area, immigration, [and other] totemic Trump actions.” However, she also predicts that in substantive areas, such as stimulus and infrastructure, he will first attempt bipartisan legislative change for its durability. As of November 9, it is highly unlikely that the Democrats will close a Senate majority. That being said, Republican Senator Susan Collins, who recently won her election in Maine, has a longstanding reputation for working across the aisle, as do Senators Rob Portman and Lisa Murkowski. It is simplistic to assume that these senators, among others, will necessarily vote along party lines, especially with a more moderate president like Biden. Indeed, Biden’s history of successful negotiation with Senate Leader Mitch McConnell will likely serve him well in bipartisan legislative endeavors.
This theme of bipartisanship is one of the most pronounced value shifts from the current incumbent’s modus operandi. Frankly, I don’t care how President Trump chooses to lick his wounds, and I’ll be tuning out CNN’s coverage of his golfing excursions. However, we ought to take a practical lesson from the consequences of this individual’s campaign and remain wary of populism. Even after the election was settled, the group that President Trump addressed wasn’t “we, the American people,” it was “we, the people who are unified in their support for his ideology and fear of the elite who threaten it,” and one doesn’t need to be a devoted patriot to see how such a message could sow division. Biden has demonstrated that he won’t do this, not only because of his image as a grassroots politician, but also because his goal of unifying the U.S. again has long been a key aspect of his campaign’s central theme: “Healing” is an obvious allusion to the current administration’s mishandling of Covid-19 and a general call for a return to normalcy, but also applies to the task of remedying political divisions among the U.S. public. Accordingly, Biden spent much of his acceptance speech emphasizing, “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify, one who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.” Pretty words can only do so much, of course, but the last four years have certainly shown us the power of rhetoric, and, as discussed above, Biden’s history and character certainly support his professed commitment.
I don’t deny that Biden has many steep hurdles to overcome, particularly the ramifications of a return to an Obama-Biden style economy, the messy task of cultivating bipartisanship in Congress, and most importantly, dealing with the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and recession. Biden also may not deliver all the increasingly progressive policies that are making their way into mainstream politics, but he knows this. In his own words, he is a “bridge” joining “an entire generation of leaders who stand behind” him, a means to restore stability to a country dealing with monumental change, and a multitude of crises. His presidency represents a massive step forward for the U.S.’ handling of the pandemic, role on an international stage, and own inter-party cohesion, and that is worthy of optimism. Maybe in another ten years his pacifism may not be what we need, but after having gone through a tumultuous four years, America needs a Biden in office to quell the unrest.