The Malta Independent 8 March 2021, Monday

TMID Editorial: Joe Biden - A new chapter for the US, world

Wednesday, 20 January 2021, 07:18 Last update: about 3 months ago

Joe Biden will be sworn in as the United States’ 46th President today, ending a four-year leadership by Donald Trump.

November’s election saw Biden triumph over Trump who has since refused to accept defeat and is now facing impeachment procedures after the attack on the Capitol which, on 6 January, shocked the United States and the rest of the world.

Trump has said that he will not be attending today’s ceremony, a clear indication that he has not accepted the democratic process. He will go down in history as the only president to have faced two impeachment procedures during his tenure.

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Biden inherits a country facing huge problems brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. But this may not be his greatest challenge. As a country, the United States has never been as culturally and politically divided as it is now, with wounds that will take long to heal, if ever.

The 78-year-old Democrat President takes over with plans to tackle the pandemic head on, along with proposed overhauls of health care, taxation, infrastructure, education, criminal justice, energy and climate policy.

His plans to undo policies set by Trump in his first days in office will not help build bridges. Biden intends to take a series of executive actions in his first hours after the inauguration in what is being seen as a message of getting things done. He will end Trump’s restriction on immigration to the US from some Muslim-majority countries, move to re-join the Paris climate accord and mandate mask-wearing on federal property and during interstate travel.

His agenda includes offering a path to citizenship to the roughly 11 million people who are in the US illegally, but it is unclear how long this will take as other issues such as the pandemic might take priority in the first months of the presidency. Biden’s plan is the polar opposite to Donald Trump’s, whose successful 2016 campaign rested in part on curbing or stopping illegal immigration.

If successful, the legislation would be the biggest move to grant American status to people in the country illegally since President Ronald Reagan had given an amnesty to three million people in 1986.

Incoming presidents traditionally move fast in their first few days in office, signing an array of executive orders planned soon after winning the election, during the so-called transition process. Trump had done the same thing, but many of his orders had been challenged and later rejected by the courts.

Biden’s main call will, however, be that to restore unity in the country. With the Republican base still behind Trump, Biden’s message will not be accepted so easily. His campaign pledge to “restore the soul of the nation” netted him a record 81 million votes but his call to “lower the temperature” and “heal” has not reached far as yet.

The situation in Congress will compound his problems. Democrats will control a 50-50 Senate with Vice-President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote as the presiding officer. Nancy Pelosi, Biden’s long-time friend, is the House Speaker, but she presides over a diminished Democratic majority which has a slim margin of error.

The rest of the world is looking at the US political transition with fresh hope of better times.

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