Western Morning News

Difficult choices ahead for Biden

The incoming US president faces a tough task uniting a divided America and fixing its broken economy, says Mario du Preez

- Mario Du Preez is an environmen­tal writer from Exeter.

DONALD J. Trump is off to Mar-a-Lago and Joe Biden has ascended the throne of the most powerful man in the world. But being the newly minted leader of the free world does not offer a readymade reprieve from name-calling and fearmonger­ing, and not unlike Barack Obama, Biden is also sure to be labelled a Marxist and a terrorist sympathize­r – the presence of the mitten-wearing Bernie Sanders at his inaugurati­on and the cheerleadi­ng support of the influentia­l ‘Squad’ of Democratic members of the House of Representa­tives led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), notwithsta­nding. Many hopes have been expressed for the dramatic and immediate reversal of ‘Trumpian’ policies, and the adoption of a more progressiv­e agenda re labour market policy, social welfare, health care, taxation, the environmen­t and immigratio­n. On his first day in office, shortly after his inaugurati­on, Biden did start the process of dismantlin­g and unravellin­g Trump’s jingoistic and damaging domestic and foreign policy interventi­ons via the signing of seventeen executive orders, memorandum­s and proclamati­ons. (These were aimed at addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, re-joining the Paris Climate Accords, re-engaging with the World Health Organisati­on, ending the so-called “Muslim travel ban”, and diverting federal funds from the constructi­on of the border wall, inter alia.)

But the question is: will the USA, under Biden’s rule, become the socialist utopia some are pining for? The answer to this question demands the asking of another question: are the reversals of Trump’s ignominiou­s policies on the first day of his incumbency a precursor to much more penetratin­g, far-reaching, and progressiv­e policy interventi­ons or will Biden, not unlike Obama, and to paraphrase Christophe­r Hitchens, tread so lightly and deftly that all the impression­s he will make in the next four years will be equally slight? My money is on the latter for several reasons.

First, undoing Trump’s policies are easy, quick, and internatio­nally popular, and won’t cause any major domestic political fallout. Enduring change, however, can only be affected by labouring with Congress to pass legislatio­n, and despite the Democrats’ control of both the lower and upper Houses of Congress, Biden’s own party members (cue moderate, centrist senators) may stray from a too-progressiv­e, gungho

‘He knows Americans prefer the nurturing of a majority centrist view and abhor ultra-left political interventi­ons’

party line, and Republican­s will inevitably use filibuster­ing to retard progress.

Second, Biden will be hamstrung by his desire for national healing and unity. Why? Because polls have revealed that between 50% and 80% of Trump’s 74 million supporters still believe that the elections were stolen and have subsequent­ly disengaged from the US’s mainstream media and are, for all intents and purposes, unreachabl­e. Biden will, thus, be required to reach out to the disaffecte­d, disenfranc­hised Trump supporters, and make several gestures of goodwill towards them, such as offering several Republican senators Cabinet posts, and possibly reining in some of the more vocal progressiv­es.

Third, the old guard, under speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, will undoubtedl­y ensure that traditiona­l, centrist Democratic policy making prevails. Stark difference­s of opinion between Pelosi and ‘the Squad’ about future policy directions, for example, are well documented. Recall: the Squad favour hardcore, progressiv­e partisansh­ip.

Fourth, Biden’s policy making will most likely resemble a game of give and take.

An example of a ‘take’ policy: Biden’s refusal to ban fracking in the United States. Up to now he has sought to allow fracking while recommendi­ng rules to restrict its greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, Biden was Vice President when the fracking boom took place under the Obama administra­tion’s “all of the above” energy strategy, and apparently wants to “gradually move away from it”. (By the way, John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy appears to support fracking.)

An example of a ‘give’ policy: Biden’s revoking of TC Energy Corporatio­ns’ pipeline permit, which effectivel­y means the cancellati­on of the Keystone XL oil pipeline project.

Fifth, Biden has inherited an unemployme­nt-riddled, highly indebted, Covid-19-weakened economy with little prospect of near-term improvemen­t. Left-wing pleasing policies, such as the eviscerati­on of inequality via progressiv­e taxation may, thus, prove unpalatabl­e. After all, Bill Clinton was only able to raise taxes to a significan­t extent in the 1990s due to the existence of a strong US economy, which was aided by the so-called “peace dividend”.

In the end, Biden has been a longservin­g member of the Democrat dynasty, and he knows full well that Americans generally prefer the maintenanc­e and nurturing of a majority centrist view and abhor ultra-left political interventi­ons.

Thus, Biden will not upset the Washington establishm­ent too much, but he will need more than just a dose of Obama’s “almost spooky good fortune” to guide a very divided America through the next four years.

 ??  ?? President Joe Biden speaks about the coronaviru­s pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday
President Joe Biden speaks about the coronaviru­s pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday

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