Joseph R. Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, marking the official end of former President Donald John Trump’s term and the new administration’s inheritance of a destructive domestic and foreign agenda and its consequences.
In the last four years under Trump’s “America First” doctrine, the U.S. flouted warnings from climate scientists, abruptly abandoned allies in foreign conflicts, backed out of international groups — including the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization — and instituted discriminatory and exclusionary immigration policies which were challenged by the ACLU as a violation of U.S. and international law. The erratic isolationism was interspersed with impromptu and often jaunty meetings between the former president and foreign dictators, an abrupt assassination of a top Iranian general taken without consulting Congress and a half-baked plan to purchase Greenland.
Biden’s victory in November, as well as his inauguration on Wednesday, prompted public celebration and congratulatory messages from many world leaders and foreign politicians, signaling their excitement at the prospect of no longer having to deal with Trump as a player on the world stage.
“Welcome back America!” Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, said in a tweet following the announcement of Biden’s win on Nov. 7.
For months before his inauguration, Biden promoted an agenda antithetical to his predecessor’s. Indeed, the new president has already signed executive orders reversing many of Trump’s hard-line policies, including a new order that eliminates the previous ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries and another order which cancels construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Biden also signed an executive order that extended the existing pause on federal student loan repayment.
“Too many Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities and to provide for their families,” the White House announced in a press briefing regarding the extended loan pause. “They should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the leading experts charged with the management of the coronavirus pandemic, expressed his relief to be working under the new administration. After a year of being frequently placed in a position where he would have to contradict Trump’s false claims regarding the virus, Fauci appeared optimistic about the new administration’s approach.
“One of the new things in this administration is if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said during a press conference on Jan. 21. “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the science is … It is somewhat of a liberating feeling.”
At his inauguration, Biden was greeted by an unorthodox scene: a sea of U.S. flags, planted where crowds would usually gather to welcome a new president or witness their continuation to a second term. The flags, according to the Presidential Inaugural Committee, were meant to “represent the American people who are unable to travel to Washington, D.C.” due to the pandemic.
An equally noticeable anomaly was the absence of the outgoing Trump, who declined to attend the ceremony and instead departed for his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida earlier that morning. While not the first U.S. president to be in absentia from his successor’s inauguration, the decision betrayed his bitterness after his unsuccessful attempts to overturn the results of a free and fair election.
Biden’s agenda is far from national embrace, as both conservatives and progressives have identified what they view as fundamental flaws that need to be remedied. But, unlike the previous administration, Biden has nominated cabinet appointees with experience in their fields — not wedding planners or family members.
The country and international community should expect to be able to hold the new president accountable for his actions to a higher degree than his predecessor. Trump, true to his word, ran the country like he would run a business: prioritizing money and the propagation of his brand over courtesy to his rivals and fidelity to those who weren’t useful to him. He exposed the fragility of implied democratic norms of decency and magnanimity, and showed the toothlessness of our system’s methods of accountability in the face of someone who shows no sense of responsibility, remorse or regret.
Liam DeBonis is the photo editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @LiamDebonis