He’s only been in the job three months but once again this week Joe Biden showed why he might actually accomplish more change than any President in decades.
Biden spoke out against the big pharmaceutical industry that for so long has weilded massive lobbying power in U.S politics. When it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines, Biden said, intellectual property rights should be waived. If the WTO agrees with Biden, all manner of vaccine producers will be able to take up production to help out the parts of the World that aren’t as lucky as the increasingly-vaccinated US.
And yes, you can be cynical about the whole exercise. It’s true that Biden is only making the call now that the US is well into its vaccination programme. A truly moral response might have ensured the likes of Delhi and Mumbai were vaccinated well before Chicago or Miami. But Joe Biden’s first few months in the gig have been far more successful than many of us imagined they could possibly be. He’s been brave, at times. He’s been strategic. He’s picked fights he can win and kept out of the fights he can’t.
His massive $US1.9 trillion economic stimulus package has already been enacted and enjoys the support of a majority of Americans. His family and infrastructure plans, which would cost about $US6 trillion, are also really popular. But because Donald Trump didn’t give a toss about the deficit and only a few months ago mailed out checks to the whole country, Biden’s massive spending plans don’t seem so controversial. How’s he going to pay for it? Biden plans to crack down on the big American corporates that have been using offshore tax havens to avoid paying their share. What average American voter could possibly have a problem with that?
Despite the rich relationship history of Biden’s foot and Biden’s mouth, in his first three months in the Oval Office he hasn’t made a major gaff. He’s back in the Paris Climate Accord. He’s introduced a no-Twitter policy for his advisors and they’ve managed to keep clear of the culture wars that have consumed so many of his political colleagues over the last few years. He’s walked a careful and delicate line on police brutality and race relations. Some of his gun reform laws, which would impact gun producers rather than gun owners, are particularly cunning.
And I reckon there are two other significant reasons fo Biden’s success:
The first is the stark contrast with his predecessor. Who could honestly argue that these few months in the U.S haven’t been a whole lot less politically stressful than at any time during Trump’s Presidency? Biden’s reforms sound boring compared to the daily outrage from Trump’s office, but if you look closely, some of them have the potential to signficiantly change American society.
The second reason is perhaps even more significant. Biden is governing like a man who doesn’t have to worry about a re-election campaign. Will he run again in four years? Maybe. But probably not.
Usually Presidents are at their most powerful in the first half of their first term, before the mid-term elections erode their power in Congress. But any desire to tackle the big stuff is tempered by the fact they want to get a second term. Biden doesn’t look like he has those concerns.
Imagine a World where every leader made decisions with the same freedom: Stuff the polls. Stuff the focus groups. One term to make a difference and that’s it. Biden can afford to take risks and push the limits. Who would have thought that a Joe Biden Presidency could feel so incredibly refreshing?