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Biden heralds a quiet revolution, but no return to yesteryear

29th Jan 2021
Biden heralds a quiet revolution, but no return to yesteryear

Photo: Joe Biden is sworn in as 46th President of the US on January 20.
(Credit: Erin Schoff/EPA Anadolu Agency)

Ibrahim Suavi

Speak to anyone aware of the workings of Washington’s political scene and they will make the same observation. When Republicans occupy the White House, the US Capitol is overwhelmed by a deal-making frenzy with lobbyists and ambassadors keen to impress upon legislators and officials the urgency of their interests.

When the US President is a Democrat, activity on the Hill obsesses over “the process” with a resolute focus on maintaining a tightly defined legislative agenda. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Democratic administrations over-deliver in fulfilling their election promises, where the GOP commands greater confidence and trust among boardroom executives and high ranking diplomats.

It is important to make note of this in the context of President Biden’s first one hundred days in office. The departure of Donald Trump, after a tumultuous and chaotic four years, places a greater expectation on the Biden Administration to persist with its legislative agenda in a manner that resembles the norm under a Democratic President.

With the control of Congress, albeit secured entirely by the deciding vote of the Vice-President in the Senate, one would expect Democrats to be swift in instituting their priorities with a considerable degree of foresight.

Nevertheless, this expectation is misplaced. Biden and his leading cabinet appointments have been clear about their initial priorities, ostensibly guiding America out of its worst public health and economic crisis at home, while rekindling the strength and depth of its alliances abroad.

However, the lasting legacy of the Trump Administration is not one that will facilitate a return to Washington normality, nor will it be overturned by the passage of legislation and signing of executive orders.

Instead, the Biden Administration is likely to herald a quiet revolution in the manner in which Washington operates between Democratic and Republican presidencies, abandoning a strict resoluteness to a legislative agenda in the search for flexibility to change policy when circumstances require.

This is not to suggest that the Biden is to renege on the platform that guided him to the largest vote count in American electoral history – his first day’s executive orders are a testament to that – but it will signal the adoption of a pragmatic element that will leave subject several expected continuities to change.

On the domestic front, beyond tackling the immediate public health and economic crises, Biden will be sensitive to movement in polarisation. Three-quarters of GOP voters express doubt over the election result and any change that signals an acceptance of the result, as well as warming to Biden’s approval rating among likely Republican voters, is certain to elicit a positive response from the White House.

How far, Biden moves his focus to accommodate on remains to be seen, nevertheless, a broader taming of public opinion works to Biden’s advantage not least because the progressive wing of the Democratic Party will also find the strength of their voice diminished, thereby allowing the White House to pursue fewer ideologically driven policies. Notwithstanding, on issues relating to racial equity, it may be a line Biden will not cross nor relent in addressing. Biden has already assembled a highly diverse set of cabinet picks and will face dissent should that be the only notable aspect of his commitment to tackling racial inequities.

On the international stage, Biden will not adopt a ‘business as usual approach’ in so far as recalibrating US relations in line with Obama’s foreign policy doctrine. The geostrategic environment that concerns America’s role in the world necessitates being more demanding approach towards traditional allies than would otherwise be the case.

Among a set of crucial tests will be US relations with the EU, where the US will reject the ‘strategic autonomy’ desired by French President Macron and others if it involves, as has so far been the case, policy towards China and Russia remains far from adversarial. In that regard, it is here where the UK wrestles away its reputation for delinquency among White House advisers in its ingratiation of Trump and emerges as the trusted partner on security and foreign policy coordination.

Whatever the next four years hold, Biden’s presidency does not mark a return to yesteryear that many expect to happen. This is not Obama 2.0. Instead, Washington, D.C. is soon to get used to a new way of operating, one that allows the President a degree of flexibility that is unbeknown to the usual guise of Democratic administrations.

One Response to “Biden heralds a quiet revolution, but no return to yesteryear”

Zafar AliFebruary 9, 2021

Muslims seeking international justice need to stop emotionally investing on who wins US presidential elections. Barack Obama was heralded as a fair man who will do what’s right on the global stage and was bizarrely awarded an Nobel Prize for doing absolutely nothing. Yet he did nothing as Israel built settlement after settlement and veto-ed several UN resolutions calling for action, he also out (droned)bombed Pakistan and Afghanistan than other President. The Biden Administration is just extension of the Obama Administration, especially where Israel is concerned.


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