A Year of Success and Struggle for Joe Biden
World News Editor
Biden signs his 1.9 trillion dollar stimulus package into law, guaranteeing $1,400 for all Americans making under $75,000.
On November 7th, 2020, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were declared winners of the historic 2020 presidential election. Then, on January 21st, 2021, Biden and Harris were officially inaugurated, replacing Donald Trump and setting out on their Build Back Better plan. One year later, what has Biden achieved?
From day one, President Biden has focused on combating, and hopefully ending, the COVID-19 pandemic. On his first day in office, Biden and his team released a comprehensive plan to combat the deadly virus; this plan was well received by those in the public health and healthcare sectors. Supporters hoped Biden’s plan would be the beginning of legislative frameworks that would help tame the ongoing pandemic. When the Senate passed his 1.9 trillion dollar “American Rescue Plan,” Biden ensured, among many things, vaccines for all Americans and a $1,400 stimulus check for individuals earning under $75,000. This was one of Biden’s most significant steps in improving pandemic conditions; many think it was his first big legislative win. While Biden has let public health officials decide new and improved COVID mitigation strategies, the CDC and other public health organizations have given some skeptical and shaky guidance. As a result, maintaining public trust is a key issue facing the Biden presidency.
While in his first year, Biden did improve vaccine distribution - administering 500 million shots and reaching a milestone of 75% of Americans receiving at least one shot - recurrent misinformation surrounding the vaccines remains a challenge in the hope to vaccinate all of America. Over 60 million people have not received a vaccine, and Biden’s administration has had little luck in persuading them to do so. This does not negate the positives of Biden’s vaccine distribution, but his sole focus on vaccines, rather than vaccines combined with masking and social-distancing, to defeat COVID has not helped the situation. Beginning early this year, Biden finally began distributing free at-home COVID tests, along with promising free high-quality masks to anyone that needs them; while this is a crucial step, it could have been taken much earlier had there been more emphasis on it. The emergence of Delta and Omicron variants has not helped Biden's attempt to end the pandemic, but some things could have been done better to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Biden’s first year in office has also included attempting to make his “America is Back” slogan a reality, effortlessly trying to repair damage left by the Trump presidency’s foreign relations. Well, how has he done? There have been some positives and negatives of his foreign policy, including his handling of Russia and pulling out of Afghanistan, to name a few. While Biden has preached for human rights in China and East Asia, boycotting the Beijing Olympics and supporting Taiwan, he has acknowledged the rivalry between China and the U.S. and realizes that we are still able to coexist. The President has upheld Trump’s ban on trade between U.S. manufacturers and Chinese companies that benefit their military and has done an acceptable job for what he alone has the power to do. In Europe, Biden has not done much to restore relations. He has met with country leaders, but there have been some ups and downs in his relationships. Biden cut France out of the AUKUS deal, an agreement between the U.S. and U.K. that promised Australia nuclear-powered submarines, increasing tensions between France and the U.S. At the time of writing, Biden has yet to act on the growing Russia-Ukraine tension; rather, he has only spoken about it and called for Russia to cease their violence and intimidation toward Ukraine. Biden has cooled some tension between Russia, acknowledging that it is a complex issue with no true solution. Biden has been stern, overtly warning Russia of the consequences while consulting allies in his decision-making. To date, though, Biden’s most profound foreign policy has been the decision to pull out of Afghanistan in August of 2021. While this move and its motives were, in fact, justifiable and reasonable, the execution did not go as many had hoped. Within days, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan and, pushing to evacuate the last of U.S. troops and citizens, Biden could not do anything to prevent further damage.
One crisis Biden preached to solve was the racial and social justice crisis. But he has not won over social justice activists’ support. According to a study done by Quinnipiac University, Biden’s support from the Black community dropped 21 percent over his first year in office. This sudden drop in support may stem from two factors: Biden’s lack of racial-justice legislation and his failure to enact voting-rights laws. With the Senate coming to a standstill regarding voting-rights legislation, Biden has failed to create nationwide legislation while 19 states passed 13 laws restricting voting, and 49 of 50 states had over 440 pending voting restriction laws in 2021 alone.
Biden’s campaign for President included a highly anticipated tackling of the climate crisis. The crucial legislation is a part of his Build Back Better framework, but congressional talks have come to a standstill, and it does not appear that the legislation will be passed in the immediate future. However, during Biden’s first month in office, he signed several executive orders, one limiting America’s footprint in the global fossil fuels industry; Biden prohibited fossil fuels from being used as foreign aid, hoping to expand the spread of clean energy solutions. Additionally, Biden has set a goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, along with appointing veterans in the climate crisis era to assume roles such as EPA administrator or, in more focused roles, regional environmental policy administrators.
A big question surrounding the Biden administration was their handling of the ongoing border crisis. Using Executive Order power, Biden has reversed a number of Trump-era policies, pleasing immigration activists. He has reevaluated how ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) makes arrest deportations, ensuring that only known violent criminals are the top priority. In fact, his presidency has the lowest rate of ICE arrests since 1999. However, at the border, Biden has limited the number of undocumented immigrants able to seek legal help, causing criticism from the left. He also has faced criticism over his failure to make significant changes to the immigration system overall in America, which can take years for even the opportunity to hear your case in front of a judge.
Many of Biden’s problems in office have stemmed from a divide between Democrats in the Senate. In particular, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, one of fifty democratic senators, has truly limited Biden’s ability to pass legislation — one might say that Joe Manchin even has a greater say in legislation than Joe Biden. He has been a significant figure in opposing Democratic reforms proposed by Joe Biden, limiting the President’s ability to fulfil his agenda.
From the left’s perspective, one positive from the President’s first year in office is his vow to nominate a Black female to be the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Names have been thrown around, but this is another example of Joe Biden trying to diversify his cabinet and nominees, and we’ll have to wait and see whom he nominates.
To put it simply, Biden has had a year of ups and downs. While he has followed through with a number of promises, he still has significant work to do to satisfy his supporters’ wants. Numerous large promises made have not yet been completed, like the Build Back Better plan, but Biden and his administration have not given up and hope to have the legislation passed in the coming months. That will be a crucial step in fulfilling major promises left on the campaign trail.