On Biden’s Transition Period: Some Hits, Some Misses; There Are No Free Passes, The Media Will Be Watching Closely
President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021 to become the 46th president of the United States. During the transition period he’s kept his promise of having an administration more representative of the country’s demographics by nominating several highly qualified individuals who are women, immigrants, ethnic minorities, and a first LGBTQ would-be top cabinet official.
These candidates are not window-dressing nominees. They are, again, highly qualified. Many are career officials as Alejandro Mayorkas who could be the first Latinx Homeland Security Secretary; or recognized experts as Janet Yellen who could be the first woman Treasury Secretary (remember she is the former Chair of the Federal Reserve). There are only a few marquee politicians.
A criticism of Biden’s nominations is two-fold: there are too many recycled Obama administration picks (not very forward-thinking) and they are all mostly safe picks. In other words, moderate, establishment DEMS were picked because the Senate (responsible for confirming Biden’s nominations) will most likely end up being a Republican-majority body; and second these picks align square with Biden’s natural political-philosophical inclinations.
On both issues, perhaps, they could be problematic and slow real progress from occurring (unless Georgia delivers two Democrat senators in the upcoming special elections).
With urgent matters needing immediate attention, Biden must step out of his comfort zone on some key issues and remember that the true base of today’s Democratic Party who elected him is a progressive base and they want big changes to get done.
While Biden gets a mediocre C+ on his nominations so far (still a number of key positions are outstanding), he has made a major progressive move by coming out early to support a second stimulus check (direct payment) at a time when Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer already made a deal with Senate President Mitch McConnell to pass a second stimulus package that did not include a direct payment. The original agreement they had (typical of establishment politics) was to fund more money to the states and local governments in lieu of a second stimulus check that would help many desperate Americans in need of assistance.
Biden, who is technically out of the power loop and bargaining table (until he gets sworn in), quite frankly, turned the discussions upside-down. Biden’s recommendation to Pelosi and Schumer, coupled with heavy pressure from progressives, forced establishment Dems Pelosi and Schumer to change their tune and push for direct payment to be included in the stimulus package which was eventually passed. This is what the power of the presidency, even as president-elect, can accomplish.
Biden so far has shown a willingness to bend to other DEMS’ will within the Democratic base.
Everyone knows that the Democratic Party is far different from the mostly united Republican party. The Republican party is socio-economically diverse but always comes together as one voice with little to no in-fighting (especially now dominated by far-right and religious factions).
Unlike the GOP, the Democratic party is a coalition of many factions and the once dominant moderate faction has lost their grip to the rising progressives. Ultra conservative blue dog DEMS is now a meager 18-body member caucus as of the last Congress. The progressive caucus is now over 100-plus members. Overall, Pelosi and the moderates still have an edge.
But the 2020 election has been brutal for DEM moderates. Of all the Democrats who lost this past election, all but one was a moderate. Inversely, all but one progressive Democrat got reelected; and they’ve gained many seats. Some of them beating out moderate Republicans in primaries in key states like New York and Illinois, to name a few.
The point is Biden will not get a free pass even from his own party. The honeymoon was over as soon as Biden was elected president. Of course, every Democrat is wishing Biden succeeds. Most Americans are wishing Biden succeeds.
But politics is always an egoic-natured game because the stakes are just too high to ignore policy that works against you (unless you happen to be a Trumper and are spellbound by his cult of personality and couldn’t care less what he does or doesn’t do for you).
First order of business, beat the coronavirus
Biden’s number one priority in his first 100 days will be to get a handle on the coronavirus. Already we see major problems in the distribution and administering of the available vaccines, largely, because there is no coordinated federal effort once vaccines are delivered locally.
The ambitious number of Americans being inoculated by January is falling far short of the millions that were projected. Biden must work on more federal support to local governments when vaccines touch down.
His plans to provide free testing for everyone, hire 100,000 people to set up a national contact-tracing program, establish 10 testing centers in each state and to call upon federal agencies to deploy resources and give guidance to local government are ambitious and much welcomed.
His emphasis on mask wear and recommending that all governors mandate wearing masks are also steps that will make major inroads to beating COVD-19, and of course, coupled with the roll out of vaccines.
These are all areas that Trump did little to nothing. And in the case of promoting mask-wear, Trump’s infrequent compliance to wearing one, actually worked against getting all Americans to wear a mask.
Biden is more or less on the right track in key areas during this transition. There are many other urgent issues he must tackle. And he should know that the media will not handle him with kid gloves. Editorial writers and TV news pundits will be watching him every step of the way and will not be his cheerleaders, but fair.