Joe Biden is by no means a strong, let alone a groundbreaking politician. His victory in the election was by no means overwhelming. If, at the moment, we are seeing gushing emotions from officials in Washington and the US mainstream media over his inauguration, then it is for one reason only: he is not Donald Trump.
And unfortunately, it is to be expected that these opportunities for poetic excitement will not last long for their authors. The start of his presidency is as hysterically exalted as when, in 2017, the same world welcomed the election of the inexperienced French President Emmanuel Macron as the savior of the liberal world order or the adored Chancellor Angela Merkel when she led her party to the worst election result since 1949.
Today, intelligent liberals know that Trump was not just a problem, but mainly a symptom of far deeper issues. And what is the chance that an administration that could be described as “Obama III” will solve the problems that grew under Obama’s first and second governments without realizing them and being able to solve them?
Biden, let’s not forget, got the Democratic nomination just because the group of aspirants didn’t realize how detached he was from the majority of Democratic voters, and he served them a diet they weren’t completely curious about. This minority, but energetic herd, must now be satisfied with Biden, including, for starters, when it comes to his staff nominations.
However, in White House top positions, Biden surrounded himself with people he had known for many years and trusts, which, in essence, are mostly white men. It is therefore up to the officials at the head of the individual departments and agencies to fulfill the new nomenclature of gender and skin color required by the identity politics of those who supported Biden’s campaign.
Vice President Kamala Harris already represents such a model, a figure who resigned from the primaries before they even started. Her motto and the justification for her position is that she is a woman and her parents are not White — which means, simply by default, she is a maker of history, a breaker of glass ceilings, as they say in today’s jargon.
On the other hand, it could be said that the daughter of an Indian scientist from a diplomatic family and a Jamaican university professor did not have to overcome any important barriers on her way up. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar confided that her eight-year-old daughter said while looking at Harris: “Mom, she looks like me,“ but that’s just as good for an eight-year-old. Those older ones who pursue a career in democratic politics, regardless of skin color, get to know each other in its privileged family environment.
This procedure is reflected in the staffing of the administration. Rachel Levine will be the Assistant Secretary for Health in the new administration. Until now, she was the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, where she made history mainly by issuing an order last March that retirement homes must accept clients with a positive COVID-19 test. It is now accepted that this approach was one of the biggest mistakes made by American politicians in the fight against the disease. The mistake of putting COVID-positive patients in nursing homes is better known from New York because the governor, Andrew Cuomo, is also more widely known than Levine, but in Pennsylvania, it was exactly the same.
Are the members of the American media interested in this when it comes to Levine? No, because they are way too interested in the fact that Levine is the first transgender person in the presidential cabinet. Nothing else matters.
It will be characteristic of Biden’s presidency, not only in the first days, that he will try to govern as much as possible through executive orders — government decrees, as we would say in the Czech Republic.
US presidents are increasingly resorting to this solution as Congress becomes less and less able to pass laws. In the long run, this contributes to the erosion of democratic governance, to the fact that more and more different groups are living with a legitimate feeling that the government is pushing for things that have never been properly decided. But in the short term, this is a way to score political points.
Most of the executive orders that Biden prepared on the first day are supposed to destroy the legacy of a hated predecessor (as Trump did before) — rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, for example.
The revocation of the permit for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the US has the same symbolic quality. The first design for its construction was made in 2005. In 2008, the George W. Bush administration granted permission to begin the construction work. Obama had been maneuvering for a long time, as the pipeline had, of course, been the target of protests on the left and had been blocked by a number of lawsuits. Finally, in 2015, his government announced that it would not allow construction.
In 2017, Trump reversed Obama’s decision, and oil got the green light. The lawsuits were therefore able to run again. And now Joe Biden has stopped the pipeline again.
He thus created the preconditions for lawsuits from the other side of the spectrum promoting the pipeline to be re-launched. And so that his eventual Republican successor could re-authorize the pipeline in a cheap gesture on the day he took office in 2025. And so on until the oil really loses as much importance as its opponents claim. It is much more likely than it will never be built. It’s a nice example of American decadence, a way of governing that Joe Biden will not change.
Title image: President Joe Biden speaks during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)