By Christopher Featherstone, Doctoral Researcher, POLSIS,
School of Government, University of Birmingham.
President Biden’s path to his inauguration was very rocky and made history for the wrong reasons. Now he has made it to the White House, he faces more challenges, particularly in his first 100 days.
No President wants to enter office during a crisis, and a pandemic is a particularly difficult crisis to begin the presidency during. In the immediate term, Biden has indicated that he will reverse the Trump administration’s moves to withdraw from the World Health Organisation and put in place a mandate to socially distance and wear masks on all federal government property. The recent revelation that the Trump administration used all the stockpiles of the COVID-19 vaccine, derailing the plans of many state governors to speed up their vaccine provision is just the most recent controversy to hit the Trump administration’s COVID response. This will be the first of many policy areas where Biden will have to fight against the legacy of the Trump administration’s misinformation.
Impeachment of President Trump
The democracy-damaging leadership of President Trump has challenged norms of behaviour for the past four years. As a private citizen, Trump faces legal challenges across multiple states, as do his family members. The most significant of these legal challenges will be Trump’s second impeachment. We do not yet know when the single article of impeachment will be sent to the Senate, but the Democrats have assigned “Impeachment Managers” which should allow Nancy Pelosi to move quickly with the Senate trial. The impeachment of Trump poses two serious challenges for the fledgling Biden presidency. Firstly, it will likely make the divisions between Republicans and Democrats in Congress even tenser. Secondly, considering the Insurrection events on January 6th, 2021, the potential for these legal challenges for Trump becoming flashpoints for further violence presents a key challenge in the initial weeks of the Biden Presidency.
The events of January 6th shook America. What comes next must be handled sensitively to prevent aftershocks further rocking US politics. The trials for those directly involved will provide an unprecedented backdrop to President Biden’s first weeks in office. The allegations against Members of Congress assisting the insurrectionists by giving them tours of the Capitol casts yet more shadows over the first weeks of 2021. How President Biden navigates the fallout from the actions of those who sought to prevent him from taking office will arguably set the tone for the first year of his presidency. President Biden will need to reaffirm his commitment to unifying the US whilst also demonstrating the consequences for those who challenge US democracy.
(Re)Setting the Agenda
President Biden has repeatedly spoken about restoring America’s reputation in the international arena. This will form a key departure from his predecessor’s foreign policy, and Biden’s reversal of the US withdrawal from the WHO and re-entry to the Paris Climate Agreement are important signals in this direction. The Iranian Nuclear deal, a key legacy of the Obama Administration, represents an enormous challenge for the Biden foreign policy team. The legacy the Trump administration has left for the incoming Biden team represents an enormous hurdle to be overcome in any negotiations. The killing of General Qasem Soleimani will need to be addressed before any attempted revival of the deal can progress. The Biden team will also need to reassure NATO allies, re-emphasising the US commitment to the alliance.
The first 100 days are typically used as a benchmark to judge the start that an incoming administration has made on their time in office. President Biden enters office facing a wide array of challenges. There have been calls to stop using the term “unprecedented” given how regularly it has been used over the last four years. However, the challenges that face the incoming administration are unprecedented for the modern presidency due to their scope and range.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Birmingham.
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