He is about to become the most powerful leader in the world.
But despite all that power, Joe Biden is facing a mountain of challenges with three high peaks:
The climb begins with getting the coronavirus pandemic under control by vaccinating 100 million people in 100 days.
That’s a steep challenge.
Biden plans a centralized, coordinated federal response to arrest a pandemic that has infected 24 million and killed 400,000.
That means he will have to leap across a great void where there is no current national leadership and establish a foothold.
He is putting trust in scientists with real experience to help him and trusting the public to join him in facing the truth about the depth of the problem.
Some people may not want to look down, preferring happy-go-lucky promises that the virus will go away in time.
And while Biden starts to scale the mountain of challenge that is the pandemic he also has to:
– Offer cities and states a national plan to get schools open safely for students and teachers.
– Get Republicans and Democrats in Congress to agree to spend major money – $ 1.9 trillion – to jumpstart an ailing economy beginning with $ 1,400 stimulus checks for Americans to address the rising rates of hunger as well as unemployment, evictions and closed businesses. Attempt real immigration reform to bring healing on both sides.
– And as he climbs he has to pull a divided nation along or risk having some faction drag him down. To avoid that disaster he has to make time to heal the deep hurt and division while holding radicals accountable for political violence against the Congress that threatened to destabilize the country.
Biden is a student of history.
He knows that if his administration can show progress on this ascent he will earn a place in history.
He will be honored along the elite fraternity of presidents who somehow kept the nation moving across perilous territory beginning with Washington founding the nation; Lincoln holding the nation together despite Civil War and Roosevelt facing World War II.
Biden has some tools to work with as he gets going.
He has Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. He earned a popular mandate by beating the odds to defeat an incumbent president by more than 7 million votes.
In fact, he won the most votes ever in a U.S. presidential contest.
According to a December Fox News poll 59 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Biden. That is a big jump from the 42 percent who had a favorable view of Donald Trump when he was inaugurated.
And 55 percent of Americans either “Fully Support Him [34 percent] or are “With Him, But Will Be Watching [21 percent].
Another 24 percent say they will give him a chance.
All this is to say that in a country where 71 percent say the nation is a dysfunctional family, Biden enters office with a reservoir of goodwill.
Some historians have compared Biden’s election to Warren G. Harding’s famous promise in the 1920 presidential election vowing a “return to normalcy” for Americans exhausted by World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic.
Biden’s Cabinet selections are moderate, temperate, competent professionals with vast experience in the parts of government they are charged with leading, people such as Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary, Merrick Garland as Attorney General and Xavier Becerra bringing new energy to the department of Health and Human Services.
If confirmed, Biden’s Cabinet will be the most diverse in history featuring the most women Cabinet secretaries, the first openly gay person and the first Native American Cabinet Secretary.
Biden’s conventional, qualified picks give him a boost by providing credibility to his pledge to succeed.
There are some negatives.
In a vulgar break from tradition and decency, the Bidens will not be welcomed at the White House by their predecessor.
Biden will be on his own.
I am reminded of the letter that President George H.W. Bush left for Bill Clinton after the two waged a bitter presidential campaign in 1993 that made Bush a one-term president.
“I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course. … Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck — George.”
Similarly, with Biden all patriotic Americans — including those who did not vote for him – should be rooting for his success.
If he succeeds, the country succeeds.
Happy Inauguration Day!