By Quentin Choy
March 12, 2021
With his presidency being geared toward bringing America through the COVID-19 pandemic which has already taken 500,000 American lives, Joe Biden’s presidency has been focused primarily on the pandemic. Americans are being vaccinated, states are reopening, and economic relief has been signed into law following the pandemic’s one year anniversary. The argument can be made that the pandemic was Biden’s primary cause of victory in the 2020 election, with his careful approach juxtaposed to Trump’s bungled one. Yesterday, Biden pledged to make states provide the vaccine to all adults by May 1st. If he does this successfully, Biden will be credited with a colossal win in helping to defeat the virus.
However, once the virus is defeated and gone from our life, what will remain of Biden’s legacy? Following his refusal to fight for a $15 minimum wage and following his quick use to bomb Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria, Biden’s record is mixed. During the Democratic primaries, Biden was criticized for being out of touch, too corrupt, and most importantly, a continuation of the same old system that led to an outsider like Donald Trump being elected.
With the possibility of Donald Trump being the Republican nominee for the presidency in 2024 versus either Joe Biden or Kamala Harris, Biden-Harris needs to move in a radically different direction than Obama, Bush, and Clinton – all of whom had policies that disillusioned and disheartened many voters who have grown cynical, pessimistic, and doubtful of our elected leaders who do not serve them.
While Trump’s 2016 campaign had elements of populism, and while Bernie Sanders’ campaigns held populist aspects from a left-wing perspective, Biden’s ascendency to the presidency was seen by many as a “return to normal.” Following a year as chaotic as 2020, a return to normal seemed appealing to many voters including myself. However, we have to remember that the “normal” politics-as-usual form of governance led to the rise of outsiders like Sanders and Trump. Populist ideas have not gone away since Biden’s election victory. If he refuses to acknowledge populist goals and priorities, populist resistance against the system will only grow stronger.
If Biden is to create a legacy aside from defeating COVID-19, he must lean toward economic populism and providing for ordinary Americans. His stimulus package was a step in the right direction, and he must continue boldly down that path. Biden could accomplish three critical missions for himself, his party, and for his country if he simply addresses the actual needs of ordinary Americans rather than elites.
Firstly, he would create a legacy and live up to the idea that he is “the most progressive president since FDR.” Secondly, he would provide Vice-President Harris a solid record to run on in 2024. Thirdly, he would eliminate Donald Trump as a future political force if he is more populist in action than Trump is in rhetoric, thereby securing a victory for the Democrats.
While the solution for Biden’s legacy is simple, I do not have much faith that he will succeed. These first 50 days of his presidency may have been his best, but if he continues politics-as-usual, I fear the worst is yet to come.
Image Courtesy of Denver7