DECEMBER 08, 2020
Biden will have to heal the wounds of a nation that seems to be at war with itself
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has officially secured enough certified results across States to cross the critical threshold of 270 electors in the Electoral College. That all but guarantees that he will be the 46th President. While there is lingering but near-zero chance of incumbent President Donald Trump overturning the results through legal challenges targeting mail-in ballots, it may be safe to assume that the Electoral College will carry out, on December 14, an uncontroversial confirmation that the Biden-Harris ticket won the 2020 presidential election, and that the Biden administration will take charge after Inauguration Day next month. However, there is little doubt that seeing the bitter 2020 election campaign through to victory is but the start of what is sure to be an arduous journey for Mr. Biden, who, at 78, will have to work tirelessly toward two goals: first, to undo the damage done over four years to domestic and international institutions, alliances, and strategic goals; and second, to heal the bitter polarisation of American politics along partisan lines, a phenomenon that appeared to peak through the harsh Trump years. At the top of the domestic policy agenda will be combating the catastrophic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., which has recorded the most infection cases globally and the highest fatalities too. The science-driven policy that Mr. Biden has promised to follow must be expediently put into action, for everything from mask-wearing mandates to an effective vaccine distribution plan. The economy will be a close second, requiring even more stimulus packages, backed by Congress, that kick-start the flagging job market and incentivise businesses to start humming with activity again.
On the international front, Mr. Biden is likely to use his first 100 days in office to explore what options there are to re-join WHO and the Paris climate change agreement. This could signal the end of the era of Trumpist isolationism on the global stage. He is also likely to train his guns on immigration reform, an area in which the Trump administration ripped a gash through the earlier paradigm of gradual adjustment to new realities. That could well include lifting Mr. Trump’s executive orders restricting the issuance of new skilled worker visas and green cards, as well as limits on entry for students at universities offering mainly online courses. Family separations at the U.S.’s southern border may halt, perhaps substituted by the Obama-years policy of “catch and release”, and the border wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for will be indefinitely shelved. Yet none of these reversals of Mr. Trump’s policies will matter if Mr. Biden does not proactively seek to build bipartisan consensus in Congress and across the country. The fact that the U.S. was riven by hateful discourse from both sides of the political spectrum throughout the 2020 campaign suggests that Mr. Biden will have to work overtime to heal the wounds inflicted on a nation that at times appears to be at war with itself.