In My View
Biden in, Trump out and a challenge ahead
Last Wednesday was a historic day for America. Under unprecedented security measures, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. took the oath of office as the 46th president of the United States while Kamala Devi Harris as the first Black and female vice-president of South Asian descent making history and showing that anyone can have a fair chance in America.
With deployment of over 25,000 members of the National Guard in addition to Metropolitan Police and Military Police in Washington DC for the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the US capital looked like a war zone. Most people watched the inauguration on live TV in real time as the city was locked down due to Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol and COVID-19.
Breaking with tradition, Donald Trump became the first American president in 152 years to skip the inauguration of his successor. He, however, wasn't alone to do this. He joined three other American presidents who also boycotted the inaugurations of their successors in the past. They were President John Adams in 1801, President John Quincy Adams in 1829 and President Andrew Johnson in 1869.
After the inauguration, the hard work began. The new administration of President Biden faces a huge challenge. "Make America Great Again" was the rallying cry of Donald Trump that propelled him to victory in 2016 presidential election. But during the last four years of his presidency, he did just the opposite to America---both domestically and internationally---in the eyes of most Americans as well as America's friends abroad.
Starting from his discriminatory travel ban on Muslim countries and hardline stand on immigration to withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and United Nations organizations---all caused a long-lasting damage to America's image as a nation of immigrants and its principle on multilateralism in the world. As the new White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain noted, the Biden administration "will inherit a huge mess."
In addition to the Paris Climate Agreement and the multilateral deal on Iran's nuclear program, Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO and United Nations Human Rights Council or UNHRC. He also announced America's withdrawal from the World Health Organization but President Biden reversed the withdrawal through an executive order shortly after his inauguration.
United Nations was born in San Francisco, California on October 24, 1945 and the United States is one of the founding members of the organization. The US is also one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. So when Trump started to withdraw the US from different UN bodies, many around the world scratched their heads finding it an extremely shocking and puzzling development.
But as promised, even though President Joe Biden signed on his very first day in office over a dozen executive orders including the ones that would reverse the racist travel ban on Muslim countries and allow America to rejoin Paris Climate Agreement, it will take years to restore America's reputation as the undisputed leader in virtually every field and create confidence of the world in America again.
Democracy itself came under a siege in America as the pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6 to overturn the results of a free and fair election. That shocking incident and Trump's refusal to concede to now President Biden will embolden dictators and military rulers around the world who do not believe in democracy. America has lost its moral authority to talk about democracy in other countries at least for the time being.
On the domestic front, the immediate challenge facing the Biden administration is to tackle the pandemic of COVID-19 which was poorly managed by the Trump administration all through from the beginning. And that's why President Biden has placed the pandemic at the top of his agenda and already begun working to bring the virus under control and save American lives. Currently, one American is dying from coronavirus in every 30 seconds.
Apart from appointing a COVID-19 task force with prominent medical professionals, President Biden signed an executive order making mask wearing mandatory in all federal buildings across America for next 100 days. However, there is a significant number of Americans, mostly Trump followers, who are reluctant to wear face masks. Many of these people also refuse to follow the COVID-19 health guidelines, such as maintaining physical distance.
The new US president has also taken up an ambitious program of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first hundred days of his administration. Even though the program seems to be a tall order, experts believe that it can be implemented with uninterrupted production and distribution of vaccines throughout the country. COVID-19 has so far killed over 400,000 Americans and the death toll may cross half a million by mid-February.
But the toughest challenge facing the new administration of President Biden is to heal and unite a nation that was never so bitterly divided anytime since the Civil War. Although Biden has already started demonstrating his intention in both words and actions to bring the country together, it will remain a challenge for the new president probably for a long time. At the root of the division lies nothing but the lies of Donald Trump that the election was stolen from him.
As I already mentioned in one of my previous columns in the Daily Observer, even though Donald Trump has left the White House, he isn't going anywhere so soon. He has already announced in his farewell address and also in a video message shortly after the Jan. 6 Capitol siege that "this is just the beginning of our movement." What this means is pretty much clear and straightforward; he will remain actively engaged in American politics.
And as long as he remains directly involved with politics, millions of his supporters across America will continue to rally round him even though some moderate people may break ranks for the efforts of President Biden to bring the country together. Being a longtime US senator and vice-president for eight years, Joe Biden is highly experienced in working in a bipartisan way. So, he may succeed in bringing a form of unity in America but the division may still remain because of the Trump factor.
Although Donald Trump has offered his best wishes to the new administration, he has failed to publicly concede to President Joe Biden. He hasn't uttered even Biden's name in his farewell address. He, however, acknowledged his defeat in the election when he committed himself to the "orderly transition" on Jan. 20 in a video message that condemned the insurrection at the US Capitol which he himself provoked in a pep talk to his supporters.
America is currently facing a critical time. Four years of Donald Trump's administration isolated America on the world stage and divided Americans at home to an extent that was never seen before in a very long time. And then there is the pandemic of COVID-19. But it is heartening to note that America has just got a leader who knows how to lead through crisis.
The writer is a Toronto-based journalist who also writes for the Toronto Sun and Canada's Postmedia Network