BIDEN INAUGURATION: Challenges await new president

Clarion Staff

The inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States is scheduled to be held outside the nation’s Capitol at noon (EST) on Jan. 20. Biden is taking office at a particularly difficult time, with the nation in the midst of a raging pandemic and facing a host of other challenges. Here’s a closer look at some of them.

Police and justice reform
An estimated 15 to 26 million people of all races participated in protests over police brutality after the death of George Floyd last summer. State and local politicians proposed laws to reform policing and combat racism, but the battle to bring about change in the justice system is only beginning. In fact, observers have compared the treatment of the rioters at the nation’s Capitol to Black Lives Matters protestors to show the continued inequity.

Domestic terror threat
As the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill showed, the threat of domestic terror is real. According to a threat assessment report issued by the FBI on Jan. 17, domestic terrorists inspired by racist, anti-government or anarchist ideologies “pose the most likely threat to the 59th Presidential Inauguration” and beyond. Law enforcement officials worry that the “consumption of online violent extremist media” may lead to the continued “radicalization and mobilization process of U.S.-based violent extremists.”

Divided nation
The nation is deeply divided across party lines. You don’t need to look any further than the latest election results to recognize that. Although Democrats have control of the Senate, the chamber is split 50-50, with the deciding vote coming from the vice president. In the House, Republicans actually gained back 10 seats, leaving the Democrats with a much smaller majority, 222 to 211. In the presidential race, Biden won with 51.3 percent of the vote. He received more than 81 million votes, compared to Trump’s 74 million. Even after his most recent impeachment following the riot at the nation’s Capitol, polls from CNN show that the president has an 80 percent approval rating among Republicans.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the United States, where there have been 24 million confirmed cases as of Jan. 18. The Center for Disease Control director Dr. Rochelle Walensky now projects there will be 500,000 deaths from the disease nationally by mid-February. Biden has promised to improve vaccine distribution in order to deliver 100 million doses in 100 days. As of now, a just little more than 11 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Economic issues
Limits on larger gatherings and other pandemic-related restrictions have had a significant impact on businesses, especially the service, hospitality and tourism industries. The nation’s unemployment rate now stands at 6.7 percent. According the Brookings Institute, small business revenue is down 20 percent from last year and Chapter 11 bankruptcies are up more than 15 percent.

Whether it is politics or COVID-19, misinformation has proliferated in social media in recent years. Multiple conspiracy theorists have taken hold, including the unfounded QAnon theory about Satan-worshipping pedophiles in government, business and media. In fact, multiple members of congress have endorsed such beliefs. While some of this can be attributed to bad actors from other nations, Zignal Labs found that misinformation about election fraud dropped by 73 percent after Trump was banned from Twitter.

Global standing
A PEW Research Center study of 13 nations released in September shows that the image of the United States has suffered across many regions of the globe. According to the study, “in several countries, the share of the pubic with a favorable view of the United States is as low as it has been at any point since the Center began polling on this topic two decades ago.” In the UK, only 41 percent of the respondents expressed a favorable view of the United States. In France, it was 31 percent, while in Germany it was just 26 percent. Few continue to see the United States as the world’s leading economic power, with only 34 percent of the people in the 13 nations survey endorsing that viewpoint.

Environmental challenges
Biden has promised to sign executive orders to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord on his first day in office. Still, climate change will have a tremendous impact on the future of the nation. The past seven years have been the hottest seven years on record, according to NASA climate scientists. Hurricanes, wildfires and severe weather threats have been on the rise. Drought and heat sparked unprecedented wildfires in Australia and the Western United States, the Atlantic hurricane season saw a record 30 named storms, and parts of the Artic saw average temperatures more than 10 degrees above normal.

Combating Foreign Influence
From cyberattacks on the U.S. people and its government, to secret funding or influence operations seeking to influence politicians and prominent individuals, the threat of malicious foreign influence is real. Even before the most recent security breach of SolarWinds Orion, which lead to the breach of major government agencies, there has been a growing threat of foreign influence in the U.S. Action must be taken to counter efforts from outside powers to damage our democracy and society, and investigations need to be conducted to uncover what damage has already been done. The FBI has even made the Protected Voices initiative to make the public more aware of these influences and security threats, specifically stating that “foreign adversaries, including Russia and China, and foreign aligned groups try to illegally influence American political processes.”