There are a lot of reasons that all Americans – at least those willing to think and pay attention– should feel a profound sense of hope and optimism as a new presidential administration takes the helm of the ship of state this week.
Perhaps most obvious is the simple fact that we’re not where we were four years ago: watching the assumption of power by an administration for which chaos, corruption and credible questions regarding its loyalty to the nation would quickly become hallmarks.
As numerous stomach-turning details of Mattathias Schwartz’s detailed report in this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine (“The last handoff”) remind us, in January 2017, Americans were confronting the remarkable and deeply disturbing fact that their new president was a man both utterly without public service experience and quite possibly being blackmailed by the dictator of a hostile foreign power.
Today, thank goodness, we are past this. Our nation may be in the midst of a number of dire crises, but at least we will no longer be led by someone the former director of the FBI called “a very bad man.”
And while there are obviously huge divides that continue to plague the nation when it comes to substantive policy issues, all Americans can and should take comfort in the extremely encouraging signals that the Biden-Harris team has been sending for the last several weeks in two critically important realms: the agenda it will prioritize and the people it will put in place to lead those efforts.
“Four overlapping and compounding crises”
While the new administration has already made clear that it will quickly reverse dozens of the Trump administration’s most damaging policies – many of them cynically rammed through at the last minute – it has also made clear that the incoming president has no illusions about the issues that must dominate his attention from Day One.
As Bloomberg News reported this past weekend, Biden’s immediate priorities include a handful of issues:
The plan, spelled out in a memo Saturday by Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain to incoming White House advisers, will address what Klain called ‘four overlapping and compounding crises.’
They are the Covid-19 pandemic that has claimed close to 400,000 U.S. lives, the resulting economic downturn, climate change and a national reckoning over racial equity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Biden’s commonsense priorities – overarching objectives designed to serve and make life better for all Americans – stand in stark contrast to those that topped the priority list for Trump four years ago: things like cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy, rolling back environmental regulations, repealing the Affordable Care Act, undermining U.S. relations with traditional allies, courting autocrats and attacking immigrants.
Perhaps even more important, is that to a great degree, the top Biden-Harris priorities transcend partisanship and ideology. Simply put: All Americans – except perhaps for the lunatic fringe – overwhelmingly support (and stand to benefit from) swift action to overcome the pandemic, rebuild the economy, tackle the climate emergency and narrow the racial divides that plague us.
A strong and competent team
Just as important as the top issues Biden has prioritized is the list of committed veteran public servants he has named to assist him.
In area after area, one can’t help but be struck by the impressive credentials, intelligence, skills, commitment and diversity that Biden’s nominees and appointees bring to the table.
No more will the key arms of government be led by a muddled collection of sycophants, grifters, family members, ideologues and cronies selected for their personal loyalty to the president, along with a small handful of mostly well-meaning people trying only to limit the damage and make sure their boss didn’t do something utterly catastrophic.
Instead, the administration will be led by what clearly appears to be a strong and competent team of professionals – people dedicated to facts, data, science, and most important, serving the nation rather than merely the president.
This is not to imply that the Biden-Harris administration will be devoid of egos, political strivers, personality conflicts or controversies. Such phenomena are an inevitable part of all large human enterprises – especially in the world of policy and politics. And despite the unity it has mostly displayed in recent months, the Democratic Party and the broader progressive movement remain big, disparate, and frequently unruly groups.
But at this supremely challenging moment in American history, one also gets the distinct and encouraging impression that the individuals selected for leadership in the Biden-Harris administration grasp the gravity of the situation and the desperate need for the nation’s new leaders to demonstrate competence, discipline, honesty, teamwork and patriotism.
In short, as might be the case during wartime, the members of the Biden-Harris team send every signal that they understand the enormity of the stakes and are determined to serve the nation and their fellow humans with all they’ve got.
All caring and thinking Americans should wish them well and do their utmost to aid them in their efforts.