Joe Biden is inaugurated as America’s 46th President on January 20th after a year of turmoil. We are in the midst of the worst public health disaster in a century. More than 300,000 deaths from Covid-19 and tens of thousands are projected to die before mass vaccination can end the pandemic.
The turmoil was also political, with a presidential election in which the losing candidate refused to accept the results – and even more threatening that his repeated attempts to reverse those results were supported by an overwhelming majority of Republican Party elected officials and voters were.
Obviously, Biden cut out his work for him. He must take immediate action to bring the pandemic under control and revitalize the economy. However, unless both Democratic candidates in Georgia win their Senate runoffs, this chamber will be controlled by obstructive Republicans.
That’s why Biden’s first 100 days are crucial. We asked 10 activists, analysts and elected officials to consider what he can and should do to repair the damage caused by the Trump / GOP destruction team. However, as John Nichols points out, we cannot perform repairs effectively without accountability. A policy of “forgiving and forgetting,” he writes, will only strengthen the republican attack machine.
Fighting the pandemic will of course be a top priority. And while Trump mistreated the crisis, epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves notes that our public health infrastructure has been underfunded by both Democratic and Republican governments. We need a New Deal for public health with massive investments in communities and social services that are the first line of defense against pandemics.
All the authors of this special issue have devised different strategies to steer Biden in a more progressive direction. But no one is better positioned to do it than Representative Pramila Jayapal, who heads a newly reinvigorated progressive congressional caucus. Here she puts forward an ambitious yet practical agenda that calls for not only a major relief package from Covid, but also protecting voting rights, limiting corporate power, expanding Medicare coverage and investing in robust clean energy infrastructure .
On this last point, no group in the struggle for climate justice has been more inspiring than the Sunrise movement. In her contribution, Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash refers to the example of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who campaigns for an office for climate mobilization to address the global existential crisis of our time.
Biden has repeatedly vowed to fight for racial justice, but Barbara Ransby writes that this fight cannot be won with “multiracial cronyism” and “cosmetics cabinet appointments”. And while many of our contributors are calling for an end to student debt, Astra Taylor, co-founder of the Debt Collective, goes further and calls for much broader relief to address a structural, society-wide crisis.
Nothing has exacerbated our country’s obscene inequalities like the pandemic that saw some 40 million Americans claiming unemployment despite billionaires growing their wealth by half a trillion dollars. nation Editorial board member Zephyr Teachout and our strike correspondent Jane McAlevey recommend actions Biden can take, whether or not Democrats get control of the Senate. Teachout proposes regulatory changes that would reverse four decades of monopoly abuse. McAlevey argues that while Biden can reorient the National Labor Relations Board in a more pro-worker direction, the labor movement must find ways to counter the impressive right-wing mobilization efforts in the fall elections.
Biden will have more wiggle room on foreign policy, but as David Klion notes, he’s already stacked his team with Obama-era advisors linked to the corrupt arms industry and forever locked in our post-9/11 wars. However, the public mood has shifted dramatically against military adventurism, and progressive activism is far stronger these days.
And this is where we, the public, come in. After four years of Trumpian crime, says Waleed Shahid, we are now fighting not only for the soul of the Biden presidency or the Democratic Party, but also for public opinion. Shahid reminds us that the most transformative presidents never fully embraced the social movements of their time, but were forced to act on them. If Biden isn’t inclined to achieve our goals then let’s go out and get him to do it.