Fixing a divided nation: areas of interest for the Biden administration (Part 1)

By Konrad Foote
North America Analyst

(This op-ed is the first part of a longer series on the Biden administration)

Inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, there has been much media attention surrounding what actions Joe Biden may take on day one of his Presidency, in his first 100 days, in his first year… however, if the last four years have taught us anything, it is that in this current climate, prediction can prove rather redundant. This article is part of a series highlighting areas of interest that will likely play a key role within the upcoming administrations term. Areas it will be worth keeping an eye on…

These areas are; Biden’s desire to lead what he feels is a quest to heal the ‘soul of the nation’ (1); Congressional power (or lack thereof), and its implications for party infighting; And the Executive branch’s profile (Biden’s cabinet controversies, Executive orders, and the future role of VP Kamala Harris).

Fixing a divided nation

Central to Biden’s declared reason to run for President was his desire to ‘heal the nation’ (2). The discussion surrounding what should – or what needs – to be done is a book in and of itself. What will be a key area of interest is the approach Biden takes in his attempt to achieve this goal.

Of course, Biden can’t do this alone. However, through his role as President, as Commander-in-chief, and having the seat of power in the only office every American could vote for, his actions carry weight.

Biden’s stance is that “the words of a president matter” (3). Through his words he will bring about national unity, fixing America through a lack of ‘mean tweets’ and ‘leading by example’. Talking to grassroots supporters about the GOP Biden said the political “fever will break” once President Trump leaves office (4).

However, if recent events (5) have highlighted anything, it’s that this assumption is unlikely to be true. There are clear fractions forming within the Republican Party, deep rooted fissures that will continue well after President leaves the mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Far from ‘breaking a fever’, Trumps’ actions, and the actions of those providing him with political support, either for genuine reasons, or political calculation (e.g. congressional representatives refusing to certify the election results) (6), show us American politics will have the shadow of Trump looming long after he leaves the White House. A key area of interest, will be how Biden approaches his desire to ‘heal’ the nation once this becomes clear to him.

There are those that see Biden as ‘one of the best people’ to be tasked with healing a divided America. As former White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer argues, Biden’s “temperament is not to pour gasoline over the fire” but instead to “appeal to [political opponent’s] ‘better angels’, even when those people in the past have shown no evidence of having angels” (7).

Temperament is one thing, but as Pfeiffer also points out, ‘healing’ America takes a lot more than one bipartisan bill, more than “one drinks session with Mitch McConnell”, and more than one ‘tour of red states’. The political division is endemic within the fabric of American society, and it requires the newly elected President Biden to step back, and assess the landscape in order to design his next move.

The way Biden diagnoses the problem – and seeks to address it – will impact everything he tries to do as President, so his approach will be a key area of interest within his administration.

(Image credit to Drew Angerer/Getty via The Boston Globe)

References:

1 – Dias, Elizabeth, “Biden and Trump Say They’re Fighting for America’s ‘Soul.’ What Does That Mean?”, (October 17, 2020), The New York Times, (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/17/us/biden-trump-soul-nation-country.html)

2 – The Wall Street Journal, “How Joe Biden Can ‘Heal the Nation’”, (December 1, 2020), (https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-joe-biden-can-heal-the-nation-11606866098)

3 – Choi, Matthew, “‘President Trump, step up’: Biden calls on Trump to rebuke Capitol rioters”, (January 6th, 2021), Politico, (https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/06/capitol-rioters-biden-response-trump-455595)

4 – Thompson, Alex & Meyer, Theodric, “Why Biden thinks the GOP fever could break (really)”, (December 15, 2020), Politico, (https://www.politico.com/newsletters/transition-playbook/2020/12/15/why-biden-thinks-the-gop-fever-could-break-really-792320)

5 – Teuniseen van Manen, Ian, “US Capitol Attack: What it means going forward”,   (https://unfilteredvoices.org/2021/01/13/us-capitol-attack-what-it-means-going-forward/)

6 – Pengelly, Martin & Bryant, Miranda, “Ted Cruz and other Republican senators oppose certifying election results”, (January 3, 2020) (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/02/ted-cruz-republican-senators-reject-election-result-biden-trump)

7 – Pfeiffer, Dan & Favreau, Jon, “Two Americas: Trump Riots and Georgia Runoffs | Pod Save America”, Crooked Media, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZ4g89gwA3I)

 

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