The 2020 elections concluded with an affirmative victory for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
The Democrats won the presidency as well as the senate. The new Biden-Harris presidency is heralded to bring changes to many laws of their predecessor, Donald Trump. These include revoking his controversial Muslim ban, rejoining the Paris Agreement for Climate Change, and getting America back into its role as a leader in world politics. To understand what the Biden-Harris presidency would mean for the US, it is important to see what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have stood for in their political history and what policy changes have they promised to bring with them.
77 years old White Joe Biden has been involved in politics for over half a century. He was a six-term senator from Delaware, first elected in 1972, and is now the 46th President of the United States. He joined the American presidency on the ticket of the Democratic party. He served as Vice President during the presidency of Barack Obama, the first Black president of the United States. Biden would join the White House at age 78, the oldest of any presidents yet. He has had to justify concerns related to his age, dementia, and stammer disability during his campaign. He stands somewhere in the middle of the left and right political spectrum. However, since Donald Trump’s presidency took America further right for four years, Biden’s middle ground policies have been deemed too radical or leftist in comparison. An objective analysis of his political commitments refutes such a generalisation for some and concurs for others.
Kamala Harris made dual history as the first-ever woman Vice-President and the first-ever Black and South Asian Vice-President. Initially, contesting the Presidential seat, Harris, and Biden had been opponents. However, Harris withdrew from the race early on. Her entry as Biden’s Vice Presidential nominee was a welcome surprise to many. Biden’s campaign was unremarkable until Harris joined the team. Her voice brought back to life Biden’s campaign and together they managed to get the Democratic party’s nomination for the Presidential election. Harris started out as district attorney and rose to Attorney General and then a Senator by 2016. Harris has not taken an ideological stance on the political spectrum and embraces diverse views from all sides. However, she remains stable on her support for the policies and commitments of Joe Biden.
Joe Biden made his bid in many ways as an anti-Trump choice for the American people. Other runners for the presidential election, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had much more radical agendas in comparison. Biden did not adopt the same narrative, rather he appealed to the America of the past. The one where America led the world and was the cool Big Brother that everyone looked up to. America had problems, but nothing that was unsolvable if everyone sat together at the dinner table and talked it out. Biden was the comfortable Uncle Joe that evoked nostalgia for a not too distant past in many people. Harris on the other hand, with even just her Black female identity, was the driver to the future. The one who would address the questions of racial injustice and misogyny that marred American history. Barack Obama lent his open support to the Biden-Harris campaign and invoked in many of his followers a future like that of Obama’s America. With this play on memory and history, the Biden-Harris campaign made the following commitments:
- Revitalise the Middle Class
Biden argues that the inequality between classes was increasing rapidly in America. His policy would be to grow the middle class, which is the driver of a truly capitalist economy. He blames lack of opportunities and optiminism in American capitalism by the young people and hopes to reverse the country back to its roots. Currently, the US has a relatively smaller middle class than other advanced countries and within the middle class, the income disparity is rising rapidly.
- Health Care
He will reinstate the Affordable Care Act and ObamaCare and build on them to ensure healthcare becomes a right for all, not a privilege. He will not nationalise healthcare and rid of private insurance companies. But he will introduce policies to reduce the prices of drugs, establish an independent review board that will recommend drug prices with no competition, penalise inflated drug costs, and restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He intends to expand Obama care so that up to 97 percent of Americans have health insurance. The plan is expected to cost $750 billion over 10 years.
Biden promises to forgive all undergraduate student loans for students from families earning less than $125,000 annually and have attended two or four-year programs in public universities. He also plans to make public universities and colleges free for all people in this income bracket. To fund this, he will alter the CARES act and thus eliminate the extensive tax exemptions to the rich.
The new administration would work to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. He would also introduce legislation to empower workers such as getting rid of non-compete clauses, removing rules that prohibit employees from discussing pay among themselves, and stricter over-time payment laws.
Biden plans to spend up to $1.3 trillion to improve the infrastructure across America for over 10 years. His first term would be dedicated to repairing and building roads, highways, and bridges. He also wants to strengthen the rural class by allocating $20 billion on building a broadband network.
Biden has vowed to make masks mandatory in all states, to expand mass testing, increase production and supply of personal protective equipment, support safe vaccine development and redistribution, and a plan for safe re-opening of educational institutes. He would rejoin the WHO and follow scientific recommendations to curb the virus.
- Climate Change
The US would rejoin the Paris Agreement under Biden-Harris’s presidency. A new federal agency for research and innovation into clean energy would be created. $5 billion would be spent on improving electrical transportation technology. The goal would be to make the US carbon pollution free till 2035 and have total zero emissions by 2050.
- Refugees and Immigrants
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would be reinstated and a wider age range for asylum seekers would be approved, which would include unaccompanied minors who were separated from family members. He would terminate the Remain in Mexico (MPP) program and allow immigrants to present their asylum cases in the US. The Muslim travel ban would also be revoked.
- Black Lives Matter
Biden and Kamala have been vehement in their support for racial equality and against police brutality. Under their administration, reforms in police administration and stricter rules to ensure the end of discrimination against Black people in America are expected.
The Biden presidency would be a sharp departure from the previous administration. It is reminiscent of the Obama era. However, no matter how good the policies and commitments seem during the campaign, progress demands concrete actions in the next years to come. The world would just have to wait and watch the impact of the new administration on America and beyond.