Biden likely to balance activist agenda with moderate tone

President Joe Biden. Credit: US Embassy in Israel, Flickr

President Joe Biden. Credit: US Embassy in Israel, Flickr

United States President Joe Biden faces a more desperate situation than the Global Financial Crisis that confronted President Barack Obama, but Biden has also learned some crucial lessons from Obama’s missteps, US politics expert Professor Wesley Widmaier says. 

"Even while Biden will be moderate in tone, he is likely to be activist in policies," the Professor and Head of International Relations at The Australian National University (ANU) said. 

"He has already proposed a USD1.9 trillion ’American Rescue Plan’ marked by funding for vaccinations, a new round of stimulus checks, support for small businesses, states and local governments, and unemployment aid. And another USD2 trillion in proposed infrastructure spending looms over the horizon."   

While Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel famously said that one should ’never let a serious crisis go to waste’, many Democrats feel that Obama and Biden did the opposite in seeking to persuade Republicans to support their recovery efforts, Professor Widmaier said.  

"These Democrats saw this as a misstep that reduced and delayed the impacts of those recovery efforts," he said.  

"Unlike Obama, Biden will likely move quickly in the absence of Republican support.  

"He’ll do this by using the congressional ’reconciliation’ to pass budgetary legislation on simple 51-vote majorities in the Senate and so circumvent the 60 vote supermajorities imposed by potential Republican filibusters." 

Professor Widmaier said President Biden will also make greater use of executive orders to advance environmental and other regulatory concerns.   

"In the process, the first 100 days of the Biden administration may prove more consequential than the first 100 days of the Obama administration. The challenges he faces are certainly greater than any faced by a US President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, during the Great Depression." 

Dr Jennifer Hunt, a national security expert from the Crawford School of Public Policy at ANU, has written an article for  The Conversation  about the significant challenges facing President Biden in the wake of President Donald Trump’s turbulent time in office. 

"As Joe Biden prepares to become the 46th president of the United States, managing the fallout from President Trump’s time in office will be one of his gravest challenges," Dr Hunt wrote. 

"The threat of disinformation and alternative facts has taken many forms over the past several years, from conspiracy theories about climate change to COVID-19, culminating in a 2019 FBI memo warning about the threat of ’conspiracy-theory driven domestic extremists’, particularly around elections. 

"The conspiracy theory that drove the violence at the Capitol Building has been building for the past four years. During this time, US President Donald Trump has decried any contest he does not win as fraudulent. 

"The next few years will see investigations, commissions and reports detailing the failures that led up to the Capitol attacks. Any delay in accountability could see even more lives lost to conspiracy theories and those who profit from them." 

Dr Charles Miller from the ANU School of Politics and International Relations said, with the safe conclusion of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46 th  US President, "a sigh of relief will have been heard in capitals across the world".

"Biden’s assumption of power is unambiguously good news for Australia - the United States will once more have a government which is competent, reliable and committed to America’s alliances," he said. 

"That said, we Australians cannot be complacent. We cannot assume that things are back to normal and that we can carry on with the same foreign policy - relying so heavily on the United States for our security - we had before."


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