Friday, February 5, 2021

Expectations Of A Biden Presidency

“Joe Biden is as good a man as God ever created.”   —U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC

 Shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President in January 2017, I posted an essay entitled “Expectations of a Trump Presidency”. The intent was to imagine Trump’s four years in office, based upon what we had seen and learned from two years of his campaigning. When I recently \reread that essay, I was surprised at how prescient the conclusions proved to be. Four years later, we have now inaugurated a new President – Joe Biden. It therefore seems appropriate to similarly speculate on what we might anticipate from his next four years.

 Given the events, conduct and outcomes of Trump’s four years in office, one must necessarily insert a context to properly determine expectations of a Biden presidency. Donald Trump drastically changed the landscape of the Presidency and Executive Branch – indeed, all parts of the federal government – as well as the interactions and perspectives of the citizens that government serves. Therefore Joe Biden’s presidency will initially be defined and driven largely by reacting to Donald Trump’s legacy, rather than starting from Biden’s own aspirations and political platform. That reaction will need to focus on four key areas:

 TRUTH: We all know that politicians will at times stretch the truth or a perspective in ways that will cast them in the best light. But not until the last four years has lying become the given, the reflexive response, with truth hidden away unseen in the dense forest of obfuscation. No thoughtful decisions, no effective actions, are achievable in such a distorted climate. The most fundamental priority for the Biden presidency is to restore the telling of the Truth into the national dialog. Certainly there are times when multiple truths can legitimately collide against each other. But only by facing those truths can we successfully plot our course with a reasonable expectation of achieving our objectives. Credibility is an essential foundation for leadership.

 RULE OF LAW: Since the adoption of our Constitution in 1788, our allegiance has been to that Constitution, not to an imperial king or queen. Our government is subservient to that Constitution.  Its elected and appointed officials are subservient to the citizenry. The Rule of Law took a setback over the past four years, as our president flagrantly ignored Constitutional principles, legal requirements, and historical precedent and conventions. He exposed holes in our operating structures that had never been seen or anticipated before, and defied “legal process,” in an effort to convert the Executive Branch into a political extension  of his own making. Restoring the Rule of Law as our guiding principle, strengthening the structures that execute the Law, and rebuilding the trust of the citizenry in impartial execution, is paramount.

 REBUILDING GOVERNMENT AGENCIES: The various departments, bureaus, agencies that make our government function were decimated over the past four years. Internationally respected offices were decimated by budget cuts; staffing cuts and/or leaving posts vacant; wholesale closing of offices; constant turnover in leadership positions, replaced by “acting” agency heads; muzzling and/or blocking personnel from executing their job description. This decimation was extended through politicizing agency missions by subjugating them to a reelection agenda; appointing incompetent and untrained people – with fealty only to the president – to leadership positions; obviating accountability requirements by firing various Inspectors General and inflicting retribution on (supposedly) protected whistleblowers. There is much for our government to do in the days ahead. None of those things can get done until the workforce is rebuilt – in quantitative as well as competency terms – and their missions are reestablished, performed under an ethical apolitical umbrella. Government does not function when the People do not trust that well-qualified people are doing the jobs expected of them.

 WORLD LEADERSHIP: For most of its young life, America adopted an isolationist stance, happy to go about its business with minimal interaction and interference from Europe and with other countries of the world. That changed when Pearl Harbor committed America to a new role of principal leadership in global affairs, working in partnership with other countries in formal treaties and ad hoc engagements, articulating the case for democracy. Our leadership has not eliminated wars, but the world has become more mutually intertwined, culturally and economically, to the mutual benefit of all. America – by word, by deed, by its steadfastness – has been the linchpin for this current stability. These relationships have been turned upside down and severely tested over the past four years. Our adversaries have seemingly become new-found “friends”; long-standing true friends have been pushed aside as new adversaries. The America countries have depended upon for years has walked away from its global opportunities and obligations; our word, and our participation, is now suspect. At a time when the countries of the world are more connected and interdependent than ever, America has become a minor player in world affairs. These relationships demand to be rebuilt for the benefit of all.

 Today, there is a laundry list of specific issues that demand our attention. Most critical are the inter-joined issues of the Covid pandemic and our crippled economy that have upended our daily lives. After that come issues of climate change and the environment; of health care reform and access; immigration reform / DACA / caged children; racial justice; the continuing assault on voting rights; policing reform; livable wage / economic disparity; etc. It would be great to attack all of these issues immediately and concurrently. But that is not possible given the status our government has been brought to. We first have to rebuild the infrastructure and capacity of our government in order to address our national laundry list, else we will flounder in the sea of good intentions not realized. We need to rebuild with the right people, policies, clarity of mission. This rebuilding will require patience from a citizenry whose patience runs very thin these days. But it is the first priority for America before much else can be done.

 Can Joe Biden accomplish this rebuilding task, especially in these hyper-partisan times? I honestly do not know. I do know he will need wide support to get it done. Support from people whose first concern is for the Country, not their personal agenda nor their reelection prospects. Joe Biden is not intuitively a big-picture thinker. A political moderate, he sees things in much more of a “task to do” working-class mentality: here’s a problem, let’s solve it, and use a hefty dose of common sense in the solution. We have witnessed the damage an inexperienced “outsider” president can do through four years of a pretend President who failed to understand and neglected the institution of the Presidency. In contrast, Joe Biden’s 30+ years of experience in the federal government gives us a president who should know his way across the playing field of governance, operating with a genuine understanding of people’s needs and with minimal malice in his heart.

 Getting things done. That is what we need right now. The big visionary dreams can perhaps come later. Made possible by a well-functioning government in which we can have confidence and pride. Joe Biden likely will not be a candidate for a future likeness on Mount Rushmore. But will he get this very important core job done? If so, he could just be one of those right people who shows up at the right moment for the right need. We shall see.

 ©   2021   Randy Bell   



Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, and yes! Your conclusion about the right person at the right time speaks my mind concisely. Well reasoned and well written as usual. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Well stated. We will see but I certainly wish him success.