US President Biden has been in office for 100 days on Thursday. After Trump, many Americans longed for a “normal” president. This is Biden on the one hand – on the other hand, he shows great zest for action. He wants to do something big.
When Joe Biden announced his candidacy for the US presidency almost exactly two years ago, hardly anyone was upset. So Barack Obama’s old vice president wanted to know again. Although this was not necessarily to be expected because of his old age, on the other hand, he had been leading the polls for months in the huge field of applicants who wanted to chase Donald Trump out of the White House on behalf of the Democrats. But he was hardly longed for. It was more suited to him that the Americans had known him for decades, which could not be said of most of the other candidates.
After a sluggish start to the election campaign, Biden made it into the White House – and in view of the change in power it caused great joy, but not enthusiasm. After all, he won more votes than any US president before him, but incumbent Trump also achieved a strong result. Biden benefited from the fact that, after the short Trump era, many Americans longed for a completely normal, “commercially available” president who, among other things, would get the corona crisis under control. That is exactly what Biden embodied – but not much more was expected of him. Some said after him that his greatest strength was not being Trump. At the same time you could tell his age. At times he appeared frail and not nearly as energetic as he had been as Vice President four years earlier.
But now, after 100 days in office, Biden’s supposed weaknesses seem to have turned into strengths. Perhaps because he himself fears that he will only have the strength for one term of office, he has got off to a brilliant start. As a political professional, however, he fears at least as much as the next congressional elections, which are due in autumn 2022 and in which the Democrats could lose their thin majority in the House and Senate. Either way, he shows a thirst for action that could redeem Trump’s claim that no one had done as much as he did in the first few months of his tenure. It starts with the vaccination campaign against the corona pandemic, continues with state aid for the economy and does not end with the ambitious infrastructure plans. What was talked about with the Republican predecessor in office could actually apply to Biden.
Moment for decisive action
The 78-year-old tackles so much that he is already compared by some to the legendary President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led the Americans out of the Great Depression with a comprehensive social program (“New Deal”) in the 1930s and afterwards won World War II. And all from the wheelchair Roosevelt had to rely on because of polio. Biden, the oldest president of all time, also took office at a historic moment. The corona pandemic has hit the country hard, more than 500,000 deaths are to be mourned and the economy is in ruins. And then there is the original scourge of the USA, racism. The conflict with China. And climate change.
It is the time for decisive action, for major reforms – and that is exactly what Biden is trying to deliver. After 100 days, he already had two important successes to show: He gave the vaccination campaign new impetus and brought a gigantic aid package worth 1,900 billion dollars through Congress. While people in Germany smiled at Trump’s tampering with the pandemic last year, it is now the other way around. One wonders in this country why they are not as advanced with vaccinations as the Americans. That has to do with the fact that Trump aggressively bought as much vaccine as he could get – but also with the fact that Biden optimized the vaccination campaign.
Last week he announced that 200 million doses had already been vaccinated – twice as many as he had originally announced for this point in time. One can assume that Biden wanted to keep expectations low in order to be able to exceed them spectacularly. But that doesn’t change the fact that almost 30 percent of people in the USA are fully vaccinated – in Germany there are a good seven.
Largest aid package since 1945
The Corona aid package redeems another project that Trump endorsed but did not deliver: It resulted in checks for $ 1,400 for all Americans up to a certain income limit. In the previous aid package in December, Trump had asked for $ 2,000 checks, but his own Republicans had only agreed to $ 600. Biden and the Democrats provided the remaining sum. In addition, there were extended unemployment benefits, significantly increased child allowances and, above all, billions in aid for small businesses.
It is the largest aid package since the end of the Second World War – even if the party left was indignant that the originally planned increase in the minimum wage was not included. After all, Biden has just announced that only those companies will receive government contracts that pay a minimum wage of $ 15. The aid package naturally also sparked criticism from the right, for example because debt could now grow and inflation could rise. But Biden knows very well that he cannot approach his compatriots, who are struggling for survival, with such concerns. They want help that really makes a difference, just as the president promised them.
And there are already strong signs of recovery: the number of initial jobless claims fell last week to its lowest level since the pandemic began. Retail and industry are also sending optimistic signals; the Fed is anticipating the strongest economic growth in 40 years.
The next giant packages are coming
That alone would be enough for a successful term in office if Biden can finally say: I ended the pandemic and revived the economy. But the president has already started the next project and the one after that. Negotiations for the next gigantic package for 2300 billion dollars have been going on for several weeks, this time about the infrastructure. There is hardly any discussion in the country that this is necessary; many roads, bridges and airports are too dilapidated. The Republicans criticize, somewhat hypocritically, that charging stations for electric cars, the replacement of leaded water pipes and the expansion of broadband Internet are also provided, which they do not see as traditional infrastructure.
Billions in re-training programs and massive investments in research and development are also causing criticism – because all of this is declared as infrastructure. Whether the package will be decided on to this extent is still open. A slimmed-down version would also be conceivable, especially since some moderate Democrats, such as Senator Joe Manchin, could share the Republican concerns. This Wednesday, Biden finally wants to present another package for families, which reportedly provides massive aid for (small) childcare, which is extremely expensive in the USA, and other financial relief for families.
The list of Biden’s activities is still not exhausted. For example, he announced that he would withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and also stopped their relocation from Germany. On the first day of his term of office, he immediately rejoined the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization and also ensured extensive investments in renewable energies and electromobility in the large aid packages. He also advocated stricter gun laws.
You can hardly recognize Biden again
At the same time, he did not reverse everything that his predecessor had initiated – the tariffs against China remained in force. He also wanted to keep the number of refugees to be admitted by Trump until he bowed to the pressure of the party left and increased it. However, the president has not yet tackled judicial reform.
He had to master his first crisis on the border with Mexico, where again numerous people from Central America are trying to get to the USA. Biden is in a dilemma here – on the one hand, he has promised a more humane immigration policy, on the other hand, he too wants to keep the border as tight as possible so that the Republicans have little exposure. He doesn’t look particularly happy on this yet. The first thing he did was to ask Vice President Kamala Harris to take care of it.
In the first three months of his tenure, many Americans barely recognize Biden. After Trump, they expected a perfectly normal president. The constant excitement of the past four years is actually over. But they also got a man who had been waiting for his chance in the White House for decades and who started full of ambition and zest for action from day one. No more trace of “Sleepy Joe” when Trump cursed him. Even the faux pas for which Biden was known during his long career as a senator and vice president, he now largely leaves out.
This man wants to make a difference, and something is moving in the United States too. That the politician, of all people, who represents the old Washington establishment like no other, is setting out to become the great reformer in Roosevelt’s footsteps is a surprise – a positive one. It could be a great presidency.