Biden’s Victory Isn’t Enough to Solve the Country’s Problems

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GILLIAN RUSSO

Celebrations took place in the streets on the day that Biden’s win was announced. Despite a widespread feeling of relief, there is a lot more to be done besides remove Trump from office.

By STEVIE CORTEZ

Although it has provided many in the country with a renewed sense of morale, Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump is only a small win in the long struggle toward a better America. 

My family busted out the $12 champagne when Joe Biden’s victory was announced. That night, we watched the country celebrate on TV and collectively breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t that we loved Biden; we were just happy to see the beginning of the end for Trump. But my family’s excitement was short-lived, as it has been for many Americans. In the back of our minds, we know that Biden isn’t going to solve the country’s problems, and we can’t be lulled into a false sense of complacency by his victory. 

When you think of all of the critical issues that have animated millions of people this year, only a few of them were actually caused by Trump. Don’t misunderstand this observation as exoneration; these issues were certainly exacerbated by him. But things like racism, poverty, homophobia, xenophobia and our problematic health care system existed before Trump and will after. 

Biden’s actual record paints him as a moderate at best, raising concerns among progressives and leftists.

Though Biden represents stability, he won’t, and in some ways can’t, fix the division and deep wounds that plague this moment in history. I hope that the country is not blinded by the hope and idealism of Biden’s achievement, but rather invigorated by it in a way that will promote sustainable change. 

When understanding the limitations of Biden’s potential for change, a primary consideration is the system that will constrain him in office. At this point in time, the fate of the Senate is undecided: We won’t know for sure which party controls the majority until Jan. 5. If the Republican Party retains control of the Senate, Biden’s powers will be limited considerably, with the first roadblock being the appointment of the cabinet, and later roadblocks likely including health care reform and steps toward environmental protection. In the unlikely event that a seat opens up on the Supreme Court, Biden’s pick could be blocked by the Senate as well. 

However, Biden does have some power. A basically guaranteed mechanism for change will be in his use of the executive order. Through the use of executive orders, he can put the U.S. back into the WHO, rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and repeal the Muslim country travel ban as soon as day one of his presidency. 

Biden’s election may end Trump’s presidency, but it won’t end the ugly side of America that Trump embraced.

Will Biden actually deliver on these promises? He has been talking a big game so far, with some even comparing him, and his potential for transformation, to the likes of Lyndon B. Johnson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. But Biden’s actual record paints him as a moderate at best, raising concerns among progressives and leftists. 

For example, the Biden who today advocates for the rights of LGBTQ+ people once voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act which allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states. The Biden who today claims to champion the middle class once sided with credit card companies against bankrupt Americans. It’s possible, and actually quite likely, that Biden only adjusted his rhetoric and objectives to align with more progressive views in order to get elected — even more of a reason not to trust his promises. So the question is, even if Biden could enact radical change, would he? Only time will tell. 

Most importantly, Biden’s election may end Trump’s presidency, but it won’t end the ugly side of America that Trump embraced. The hatred that escalated over the last four years is not new; it had brewed in the hearts of Americans, even some of our neighbors and family, for years, if not generations. Biden will not change that, no matter how many executive orders he passes. Some of the systems that people are fighting against so strongly at this moment are too complex to be taken down easily. 

Police reform, for example, has been at the heart of the recent explosions of protests around the country, and it cannot be ended through the course of a single presidency — at least, it cannot be ended easily. Things like mass incarceration and reform of the pharmaceutical industry cannot be changed in one fell swoop, either. The achievement of justice in these areas will require continual pressure on politicians of every level, not only in the White House. 

I know I’m being pessimistic. I think everyone deserves a moment of rest, a sigh of relief and a dance in the streets to celebrate the fact that the turmoil of Trump’s presidency is over. However, Biden isn’t going to fix this country. The obstacles are too big, and his record doesn’t demonstrate the progressivism needed for a dramatic overhaul of the structures that are failing people right now. 

Biden does have an opportunity to enact positive change, and will certainly be more open to negotiation than Trump. But even if he proves to be great and sticks to the promises he made during the election cycle, as citizens, we must continue to apply pressure in order to ensure that politicians like Biden keep their promises in the future. Joe Biden won’t solve America’s problems. Only Americans can do that.