With President Joe Biden’s inauguration last Wednesday, the adults finally got back the car keys. What a relief. You’re probably more exhausted than elated, but I bet you’ve salvaged a smidgen of that residual optimism that has always powered Americans forward.
Biden will make mistakes, like all human White House inhabitants. But at least he’ll be buttressed by qualified and seasoned public servants who are determined to work for the greater good.
Thanks to our free and fair election, and the verdict of a record 81,283,485 voters, the incompetent hacks and grifters most responsible for driving us into a ditch – and killing over 400,000 Americans – will no longer be diddling on Uncle Sam’s dime.
The big reason why Biden starts his tenure with solid public support – 65 percent in one poll, 60 percent in another – is because he used the transition to triple down on his vow to lead from the top. In a time of unprecedented crisis – the worst health debacle in 100 years, the worst joblessness since the Great Depression – there is no substitute for robust national leadership. The pandemic demands it. This is pragmatic reality, not liberal ideology.
Granted, Biden has been tasked to mop the MAGA slop on more fronts than any of us can possibly comprehend – addressing climate change and income inequality, easing racial tensions, restoring the rule of law, repairing our western alliances, and so much more. But putting vaccines into people’s arms and putting people back to work are the prime issues on which he will be judged in 2021.
Fortunately, the era of idiocy is over. The vacuum at the top has been filled. The new science team actually respects science.
And as Biden pandemic “czar” Jeff Zients remarked the other day (in what should be music to our ears), “We’re going to throw the full resources and weight of the federal government behind this emergency” – directing FEMA to create thousands of vaccination sites, using the Defense Production Act to accelerate vaccine production, spending big federal bucks to retrofit schools for safe re-openings, pushing for another new economic stimulus package, just for starters.
Yeah, lots of Republicans on the Hill will balk at authorizing any more money for economic relief, because, with Trump gone, they’re already magically rediscovering their hatred of budget deficits. And yeah, Biden takes office with thin House and Senate leverage. By contrast, both FDR and Barack Obama – two presidents facing transformative tasks – came to power with huge blue congressional majorities.
But Biden has the wind at his back. In the latest Pew Research poll, 79 percent of Americans – including 56 percent of self-identified conservatives – say they want Congress to step up with another stimulus package. It’s simple, really: People in pain want action. And kudos to Biden for not mincing words. As he said last Thursday, while unveiling his $2-trillion rescue plan, “I know what I just described will not come cheaply. But failure to do so will cost us dearly.”
Even if Republicans refuse to cooperate, Biden and his congressional allies have other options. I won’t bore you with the legislative minutiae; I’ll simply say that there’s a procedure called “budget reconciliation,” which could enable Democrats to deliver more help to the American people without any Republican votes. This is the same procedure that enabled Trump and his allies to deliver his massive tax cuts to the upper brackets. If the aforementioned Pew poll is correct, Biden and the adults in the room have a golden opportunity make their case.
At this point, most of us just want results. And after weathering four long years of serial lies (in the words of former Republican aide Peter Wehner, Trump was “a battering ram against reality”), most of us crave an administration that will be straight with us. Biden has pledged to govern in the spirit of FDR, who promised in his 1933 Inaugural speech that he would level with Americans about the economic crisis and the hard road ahead:
“I will address (you) with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly…In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”
Biden’s speech Wednesday plucked similar chords, easily hurtling the low bar set four years ago by his predecessor. And I can safely assume nobody will deliver the kind of verdict that George W. Bush shared as he exited the MAGA Inaugural:
“That was some weird s—-.”
Opinion contributor Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. His work appears on Mondays on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected].