Joe Biden signed more than a dozen executive orders in his first few hours as President of the United States of America. He issued a nationwide mask-wearing and social-distancing mandate on federal property. He rehired and restored faith in Dr. Fauci as we continue to fight Covid-19. He directed the Department of Education to freeze monthly payments and interest on federal student loans through September to grant relief to students. He moved to bring the U.S. back into the Paris Agreement, a climate accords treaty that literally every single country in the world signed. He strengthened legal protections for DACA’s prestigious “Dreamers” program to stifle endangerment of young immigrants who grew up in the U.S. and have earned every right to stay through hard work, academic success, and clean records He abolished the so-called “Muslim Ban.” He halted construction on the failed southern border wall. He promulgated an overdue interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban workplace discrimination of LGBTQ+ people. Plus this was all on the first day. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that very few people are content with Biden so far.
Like virtually all successful presidential candidates, Joe Biden made a lot of bold promises that he was never destined to fulfill. He said he would ban fracking. He said he would cancel student debt. He expressed openness to recurring stimulus checks. He acknowledged the Green New Deal as an important framework that contained certain ideas he supported. Etc. Unsurprisingly, he has since backtracked on lots of his promises. He’s not going to touch powerful industries. He’s not going to take on Wall Street or the military-industrial complex. He’s not going to uproot systemic racism and other forms of oppression in this country. He remains very much a pro-establishment centrist and corporatist (who knows how to make minor concessions seem major). But even though lots of us saw this coming, it’s still sad to witness it. I wanted to hold out on the prospect of Biden shocking us and becoming a good president. Only time will tell. The first six weeks were disappointing. But to be fair, he has endured a solid month in March.
He signed the $1.9 trillion stimulus package on March 11 after striking a deal with Congress, and this included the much-discussed $1,400 stimulus checks. Plus 66% of the tax breaks in the package are going to people making less than $90,000—signaling a departure from Trump’s policy of openly selling out to the rich when it comes to income taxes. Last week, President Biden confirmed that after promising to administer 100 million shots in the first 100 days of his office, we managed to accomplish that in only 58 days (now his goal is to reach 200 million within 100 days). He then extended the Affordable Care Act to continue the trend of working to make good, affordable healthcare available for every American. He pushed much-needed gun reform legislation after a man in Colorado shot and killed 10 people in a grocery store with an AR-15-style rifle that he was able to buy just six days prior, despite having already been on the FBI’s radar. So while the first month was mostly a PR show, he’s starting to get important stuff done.
But, as is often the case with Biden’s political career, there is a flip side to every good story. He authorized airstrikes in Syria against alleged Iran-backed militia, re-opening wounds in an area that we’ve already hurt so much (not to mention that the Kurds had practically already defeated ISIS before Trump took office, and the Trump administration briefly re-escalated things in order to take credit). He has done little to take on the prison-industrial complex despite maintaining the illusion that he is by instructing the DoJ to “not renew” its contracts with private prisons (prisoners on petty crime charges are still suffering in them, plus this is only a small portion of the U.S. prison population). He is doing little to relieve tensions with China. The southern border crisis remains in tact, and kids are still in cages—the media just acted like this was only under Trump. Plus it doesn’t help that our president is a 77-year-old white man who is losing his cognitive abilities and has a history of racist policies and creepiness with women.
Alas, Joe Biden is not Donald Trump. There are pros and cons to that, and how you weigh those pros and cons will perhaps determine your conclusions on the two presidents. I can’t say that I am super excited about these next four years. But I feel much more optimistic than I did when the orange, low-IQ narcissist was in charge. For better or worse, a sense of normalcy has been restored to the presidency. But the big change has been in Congress, with the Democrats now controlling both chambers. Mitch McConnell was known to openly ignore the interests of the American people. But our new Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, can’t afford to do that. There’s too much pressure on him from Democratic voters and some of their more mercurial representatives: Bernie, AOC, Jamaal Bowman, Katie Porter, etc. We’ll see what happens. There is so much more to the massive maze that is current U.S. politics than I can possibly cover today, but Brandon will write a follow-up post. After that will come episode 6. Stay tuned!