The past year has seen America come face to face with a series of events that rocked the very foundations of its democracy. Its struggles with the pandemic, its ever widening partisan divide, the distrust, the misinformation – all of America’s problems, its wounds are out in the open. The question that has to be asked is where does the nation go from here?
The capitol riots in early January served as the final straw, a breaking point of the tumultuous voting cycle that called for recount after recount while dredging up all of the issues America was forced to look at in the past year. From racial justice to the role of police authority and from gun regulation to belief in the institutional sanctum of government – these are just some of the omnipresent yet hidden facets that must be discussed.
Amidst all that, January 20th was a day far from normal but as close as it has gotten to it for a while. Starting with VP Kamala Harris making history by championing representation for women and people of colour at the highest level while redefining the notions of what a political family should look like. President Joe Biden called for unity in his address to the country – “we must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal” – as America turned the chapter in, at-least, the metaphorical sense.
On a more practical level, President Biden signed 17 actions in an attempt to roll-back on substantial amounts of the Trump agenda. These orders fell under four large categories – climate change, the pandemic, immigration and diversity, and the economy. Here is a quick rundown
- Climate Change
- Re-entering the Paris climate accord – to happen officially within the next month
- Revoking the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline
- Re-enforcing vehicle emission standards to the pre-Trump regulations
- Re-establishing the committee for social costs of greenhouse emissions
- Reversing the decision to reduce the size of national monuments
- Restricting (temporarily) the oil and gas leases in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge
- Appointing Jeffery D. Zients as the official Covid-19 response co-ordinator. The same order also calls for restoration of the National Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the National Security Council
- Social distancing and wearing of a mask made compulsory on all federal properties and for all federal employees
- Rejoining the World Health Organisation with head delegate Dr. Anthony Fauci to return to meeting from this week onwards
- Immigration and Diversity
- Bolstering of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) that protects immigrants brought to the country as children
- Overturning the orders under the previous administration’s plan to exclude non-citizens from census
- Blocking deportation of Liberians living in the country
- Rescinding previous order to push aggressively for finding and deporting illegal immigrants
- Reversing the “Muslim Ban” the blocked travel from several African countries
- Current suspension on the construction of the border wall
- Strengthening of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bans the federal government from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity
- Overturned the limitation on inclusion training imposed by the previous administration
- Ending the “1776 commission” which according to The New York Times – “distorted the role of slavery in the US”
- Placed Susan E. Rice incharge of a federal government level push to make “rooting out systematic racism” a priority by conducting a review within the next 200 days
- an ethics pledge put out to all federal employees the aims to “restore and maintain trust in government”
- Extending the pause on federal student loan interest to the end of September 2021
- Suspension on evictions and foreclosures on federal mortgages till March
- A freeze on “Midnight Regulations” – regulations created by the executive branch during the final stages of presidency – till they are reviewed
All being said, President Biden is clearly making an attempt to drive for a more progressive America – how long this drive stands for and with how much conviction is yet to be seen. Although one thing is abundantly clear, that he has a mammoth sized challenge in front of him in bringing about the “unity” he speaks of. Charlotte Alter of TIME magazine believes that it “may not even be possible in a nation so riven by disinformation and delusion.”
For now, the world watches with batted breath as America attempts to find its democratic roots again.
credit for all images used to CNN politics