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10 Reasons for Hope on Inauguration Day

How Joe Biden could bring much-needed change to America.




Standing next to his wife Jill, President Joe Biden takes the oath of office. (Photo: Andrew Harnik, Pool/Getty Images)

When Joe Biden launched his presidential campaign, few Americans – even his most ardent supporters – saw him as an agent of dramatic change. But the convergence of the COVID pandemic, the resulting economic crisis and the rise of a far right challenge to democratic rule, along with the radical policies embraced by Donald Trump, have presented Biden with an historic opportunity. With Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, and the power of executive action at his disposal, Biden can move the nation in a direction that hardly resembles its course over the past four years.

Co-published by Salon

Here are 10 ways Biden will likely put a punctuation mark on the end of the Trump era.


Fighting COVID

Biden will put his stamp immediately on the effort to rein in COVID-19, marshalling the power of the federal government, which has largely laid dormant because of Trump’s refusal to take the lead in everything from testing to distribution of PPE. The difference will play out both in terms of resources allocated for the mammoth enterprise of vaccinating Americans as well as national management of a public health disaster without precedent since the 1918 flu.

Protecting Immigrants and Refugees

Biden has already signaled his intention to pursue the most sweeping immigration reform since the 1980s by creating a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. That will require congressional approval, but executive orders reversing Trump’s relentless assault on immigrant and refugee rights do not, and Biden will move swiftly to cancel many of his predecessor’s actions.

Taking on Climate Change

The new president has made clear that he will be Trump’s polar opposite on climate and environmental policy, starting with pulling the plug on the Keystone XL Pipeline project. Under Biden the U.S. will rejoin the crucial Paris climate treaty, and through a combination of executive orders and regulatory decisions his administration is expected to put the country back on track to drastically reduce its carbon footprint.

Tackling Racism

Biden’s struggling primary campaign was saved by Black leaders and voters, and he served as vice president for the first Black president and chose Kamala Harris as the first Black vice president. He will use the considerable power of the presidential bully pulpit to honor these relationships, making racial equality and a reckoning with the nation’s ongoing struggle with systemic discrimination a central part of his rhetorical duties as chief executive. The contrast with Trump’s divisive rhetoric and constant dog whistling will be stark.

Strengthening Labor Rights

With his choice of Marty Walsh as labor secretary, Biden has made clear that he’s serious about his promise to empower unions. More than any president in decades, Biden prizes his relationships with organized labor, which will lead to a host of policy and regulatory changes that should favor workers who saw little benefit under Trump.

Expanding Health Care

As a key player in the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Biden is deeply invested in resuscitating Obamacare following Trump’s crusade against it. While congressional approval will be needed to add a public option, Biden can use executive orders and regulatory powers to strengthen critical elements of the ACA that languished under Trump.

Defending Public Education

Perhaps no Trump cabinet member embodied the undermining of government more than Betsy DeVos, the now-departed education secretary. Whereas DeVos was an evangelist for privatization, charter schools, vouchers and virtually every other aspect of the right-wing education agenda, Biden – whose wife is both a teacher and a member of an education union – has vowed to support the basic pillars of public education, which include the full funding of public schools, a commitment to racial equity and support for teachers.

Weeding Out White Nationalism

In the aftermath of the Capitol riot, addressing the growth of violent white nationalism has become a top-tier national security priority. In his inaugural remarks, Biden denounced “the rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, that we must confront and we will defeat.” Expect a surge of resources for the monitoring and prosecution of extremists in the early months of his administration.

Restoring the Social Safety Net

The threat of devastating cuts to programs for seniors, kids and other vulnerable groups was a hallmark of the Trump administration. Biden will likely move quickly to protect funding for these traditionally sacrosanct Democratic priorities, and with only a simple majority vote in the Senate required for budgetary items, he should be able to deliver tangible results.

Respecting Science

Within the Trump era’s broadside against facts and truth, the subversion of science stands out as particularly damaging. The shameful manipulation of the CDC during the pandemic offers a cautionary tale on how the common good can be easily sacrificed to political expediency. Biden will reverse course quickly on this front, appointing respected experts across a wide range of federal agencies.

Copyright 2021 Capital & Main

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