Biden’s America is, in many ways, a direct opposite of Trump’s United States. It looks different, and what it wants is entirely different.
It was only a month ago that thousands of extremists and Donald Trump supporters stormed Congress in Washington and attempted to achieve something best described as a coup.
It was only two weeks ago that the United States capital was transformed into a military camp with 25,000 armed troops, roadblocks and police everywhere. All to ensure the inauguration of a new president.
After four years of daily political chaos, constant conflict and provocation, a new sheriff is in town, and his America is almost diametrically opposed to that of his predecessor.
America’s New Face
Joe Biden’s administration looks completely different. For example, just within the last few days, the United States appointed Lloyd J. Austin III, the first Black secretary of defense in the country’s history.
There are plenty of Black Americans in the military, but until recently, its leadership has consisted almost exclusively of white men, and so the appointment of a Black general has been seen by many as a breakthrough.
The United States has its first openly gay Cabinet member. Pete Buttigieg, who many remember as a former presidential candidate, has been named secretary of transportation and may end up playing a major role in Biden’s plans for massive investment in infrastructure: roads, bridges, the internet and so on.
Buttigieg’s husband sat directly behind the new secretary during his Senate confirmation hearing.
Women and Latinos
An immigrant from Latin America has been appointed to the powerful position of secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Alejandro Mayorkas was born in Cuba before his parents fled with him to the United States. As the first Latino in the post, he will be responsible for America’s border control, and thus immigration policies, among other things.
Janet Yellen has conquered one of the centers of absolute power in Washington as the first woman Treasury secretary; all her predecessors have been white men as far back as the first person to hold the position, Alexander Hamilton, appointed in 1789.
Kamala Harris, a woman, is vice president of the United States. She also belongs to a minority as the daughter of an Indian mother and a father from Jamaica.
Reducing the Power of White Men
By all counts, many women now work in the White House. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary and therefore the daily face of the Biden administration, is not only a woman, but leads the first all-woman White House communications team.
Out of 15 key appointments and nominations to positions in the Biden administration, only five are white men. Ten others are either women, people of color, Black, or part of the LGBT community.
By comparison, 11 out of 15 in Trump’s first cabinet were white men, while only two were women, and one was Black.
To put it another way: It’s like waking up in another America compared to the situation just two weeks ago.
The power of white men has shrunk now that Trump is gone. Biden’s administration is far more representative of Americans as they really are: a motley bunch with roots in every part of the world.
But it’s a new era politically as well. Biden’s United States wants something completely different and almost diametrically opposed to Trump’s.
From TV Show to Zoom Meeting
I’m pretty sure that Denmark is quite tired of the pandemic.
But try multiplying by four. Proportionally, many more have died in the United States. Add to that the fact that 10 million people have lost their jobs. That school children in many places have not been to school for 11 months, and that until two weeks ago, the country’s leader seemed pretty indifferent to it all.
Now everything is being done to get the pandemic under control.
The effort is led by the country’s most skilled scientists in the field, the federal government has taken control of the rollout of the vaccine, and a very large financial aid package is on its way to Americans.
Briefings about the pandemic are no longer like a TV reality show with shocking advice on various chlorine and light treatments for COVID-19. Now, briefings consist of extended Zoom meetings with the country’s leading medical experts.
Boring in a very soothing way.
Global Warming Taken Seriously
The climate crisis is no longer a hoax invented by China, as Trump claimed. Now, efforts to fight global warming have the highest priority.
Biden has signed an executive order rejoining the United States to the Paris Agreement and introduced new standards that provide for car manufacturers to greatly expedite phasing out gasoline and diesel powered cars.
His climate advisers have been given a seat on the National Security Council, a clear sign that climate change in Biden’s America is considered a threat to the nation.
‘The United States is Back.’
And then there is foreign policy. Brutal dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un should probably not expect to continue exchanging “love letters,” as Trump called them, with the new president of the United States.
Biden’s America has a worldview that in most regions is diametrically opposite to the view of his predecessor. “The United States is back,” President Biden likes to say.
In recent days, he has reached out to allies in Europe, among others, who for the past four years have been holding their breath and just waiting for Trump to disappear.
Biden has halted U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which has led to a humanitarian catastrophe.
He has pledged to strengthen diplomacy and alliances, and he has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that in the future, the United States will take a hard line: It will cost dearly to hack the United States, undermine democratic elections and imprison political opponents.
Living in an Alternative Universe
So we may well be led to believe that everything is now back on track in America.
We can wake up in peace without immediately having to check our phone to see what the president has now said or done. Politics is an intellectual, strategic and tactical exercise once more, not a reality show. There are adults in the room again.
But it is not that simple.
More than 70 million Americans would rather have continued with Trump’s version of the United States. A very large proportion of them still believe in the fantasy that Biden won the election by fraudulent means.
Millions of them live in alternative universes on social media, where they are convinced that their political opponents are Satanists who drink the blood of children and other such nonsense.
The anger, lies and conspiracy theories that were both the driving force behind the coup attempt a month ago in Washington and the reason that just two weeks ago the city was transformed into a military camp are still lurking.
That side of the United States has slipped into the background for now, but it has not disappeared. And it must make America’s friends and allies hesitate a bit when President Biden insists that the United States is back.
For although Trump may be gone, the conditions that made Americans desperate enough to choose a leader with his background and personality have only intensified in the last four years.
The Challenges Are the Same
The United States is a country of extreme inequality—economically, socially, in relation to education and jobs, access to health care—at all essential levels.
To an alarming extent, the United States is a country where super-rich individuals and companies have the power to pay to enforce laws and regulations that benefit themselves and not the community or the nation.
So the madness may be gone. Reason is back. But the challenges America faces are essentially the same.
And with that, the task of President Biden and his new diverse cabinet has only just begun.