The First 100 Days Will Require Patience, Diplomacy

Addressing the COVID-19 crisis, rolling out economic and environmental initiatives, and developing new foreign policy and immigration initiatives will be among the immediate priorities of the Biden administration, notes Alison Howard, assistant professor of political science and international relations at Dominican University of California.

However, the volume of work facing the Biden administration will make it a challenge to roll out all plans within the symbolic first 100 days.

“Typically, the first 100 days a new president takes office is considered to be the honeymoon phase, during which time the administration can focus on rolling out policy priorities and beginning to fulfill campaign promises,” says Howard, chair of the Division of Public Affairs in the School of Liberal Arts and Education.

“President Biden is taking office at an unprecedented time in our nation’s history, with a country that is deeply divided and many issues to address. His “honeymoon” may be shorter, but the beginning of his administration is still an opportune time to pursue his agenda, set the tone for the administration, and demonstrate that he is focused and addressing the most pressing problems.”

Governing will require bargaining, negotiating, and compromise to get results in the first 100 days and beyond.

“Biden is an experienced leader who knows how Washington works. He has strong, deep relationships with members of Congress that have been forged over many years and it is exactly this type of leadership that is necessary given the narrow majorities and partisan divisions in Congress.”

The symbolic importance of the first 100 days of a presidency started with FDR’s presidency. Faced with the Great Depression, FDR began his first term with a flurry of legislative and executive actions, to address the crisis.

“FDR was successful in ushering in significant changes early in his presidency, and, ever since, presidents have been measured by this yardstick,” Howard says.

Despite the numerous challenges facing the Biden administration, the first 100 days remains an opportune time for Biden to pursue his agenda, set the tone for the administration, and demonstrate that he is focused and addressing the most pressing problems.

“President Biden has put together an experienced team. The agencies will be hard at work reviewing the previous administration’s regulations and executive orders to determine what can be done quickly and what will take more time,” Howard says.

As with any incoming administration, assessing the political landscape to determine what is possible, prioritizing policy initiatives, especially the ones with bipartisan support, and doing their best to manage expectations will be critical.

“Given that the pandemic is still raging, the vaccine rollout has been slow, unemployment remains high, and the economy still needs help, President Biden will be forced to prioritize these issues, as he has done with the announcement of a relief package,” Howard says.

“The pandemic and the economy require immediate attention; however, the Biden administration likely will address many campaign promises. President Biden could take executive action early to address many of the issues raised during the campaign, including immigration reform, health care reform, racial justice, the environment, and education.”

On the foreign policy front, Howard notes that President Biden and will need to work hard to repair relationships with our allies, make clear to U.S. adversaries that there is a new administration in town, work towards restoring the commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, and set a new course on trade and security agreements.

However, media and public attention might be focused elsewhere, Howard notes.

“President Biden needs to have his Cabinet confirmed by the Senate. This will be complicated by the impeachment trial that will take place at the outset of his administration. The trial will consume not only the attention of the Senate, but also that of the media and the public.”

Remaining focused – and patient – will be key.

“One of the most important things for people to remember is to manage the “expectations gap” by recognizing that the country faces many challenges and change takes time…. often more than a mere 100 days.”

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