September 19’ 2021
With eight months into the Biden presidency, much has happened for the 78-year-old former vice president to deal with. Not only did he inherit a country battling a worldwide pandemic, he inherited a contentious presidency with a strong challenge to the legitimacy of his victory and a troubling insurrection against his election.
In his first 100 days in office, Joe Biden signed 60 executive orders, a total higher than the last three presidents that preceded him. 24 of these executive orders were aimed at reversing Trump era policy, with most targeting immigration. Some of these executive orders included a reversal of Trump’s ban on refugees from specific regions in the world, a reversal of a Trump-era proclamation that limited legal immigration during the COVID-19 pandemic, imposing sanctions of Myanmar’s military leaders post the coup and so on.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the new presidency was the pandemic which had, at the time of the presidential inauguration, killed almost 400,000 Americans. It is no surprise that these 8 months have been characterized by targeted policy directed towards controlling the pandemic. Biden’s signature accomplishment so far was his signing of the $1.9 trillion relief bill that passed along party lines. It contained money for direct payments, enhanced unemployment benefits and rental assistance, but did not include everything Biden wanted, particularly a raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The Biden presidency was also quick to reverse Trump’s exit from the World Health Organization—making Dr. Anthony Fauci a key advisor in matters related to the United States’ reentering of the WHO as well as steps to curb the virus. However, with the reentry, the presidency vowed to reform and change the organization so as a create more efficient functioning and fix the flaws that had prompted the Trump presidency to leave in the first place.
The presidency made some of its biggest changes in the area of foreign policy. Early on, Biden declared that he was here to “pick up the pieces of Donald Trump’s broken foreign policy”. However, one area they both agreed on and made strong strides in was the United States’ longest war: Afghanistan. The Trump presidency had reduced the number of American troops in Afghanistan from 13,000 to 2,500 by the end of 2020. The Biden presidency followed through and vowed on April 14 to have all American troops out of the war-torn country by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
By August 16, the Taliban had broken its signed deal with the United States in attempts to create an Islamic Republic. By this time, Taliban fighters had entered the Afghan capital Kabul prompting the Afghan president to flee the country and leading the US to evacuate diplomats from its embassy by helicopter. These developments brought the presidency under heavy heat and criticism for its hasty pullout, but Biden, in a speech on August 16, said, I do not regret my decision to end Americas warfighting in Afghanistan,” and deflected blame for the governments swift collapse.
The presidency is far from over, yet it has seen some major developments. The coming years will tell whether Biden will be successful in undoing what many consider to be deep damages to the American political atmosphere inflicted by a divisive Trump presidency. Whether he will be able to undo deep political divide between the parties and bring the American people closer to a healthier political functioning, only time will tell.