Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Many harbor this delightful fantasy. One of President Biden’s first acts is to direct his Justice Department to investigate former President Trump for the array of dubious, borderline illicit business dealings and scams he engaged in while in the White House. Even if Biden ever entertained such a thought it’s an impossibility for two reasons.
No incoming President has ever authorized an investigation of an outgoing President. It didn’t happen with Nixon, nor did it happen with those surrounding George Bush. Jr such as Dick Cheney. Reason number two. Biden will be far too busy fending off the ferocious assault on him from an avenging Trump and the GOP. There’s plenty of recent history for that. Former President Obama had barely set foot in the White House in January 2009, when then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell convened a high-powered meeting of GOP notables.
The meeting was called for one purpose, and one purpose only. That was to come up with ways to throttle any and every initiative or legislation proposed by Obama. McConnell capped it famously with the boast that he would do everything he could to make Obama a one term president. That didn’t happen. But that didn’t stop McConnell and the GOP. He pivoted quickly and simply said he’d make his presidency a failed presidency. That didn’t happen either.
McConnell and the GOP, though, did mount a relentless and ruthless four-year campaign of hectoring, harassing, dithering, diddling, and obstructing many of Obama’s major initiatives. This was capped by McConnell’s flat refusal to consider Obama’s SCOTUS pick, Merrick Garland. Whether McConnell is Senate Majority or Minority Leader he still will have a united, lock step GOP behind him. He’s armed with total mastery of all the parliamentary and legislative tricks of the Senate trade to stonewall Biden.
He will have plenty of opportunities to use all of them. Biden will have a monumental clean-up job ahead of him. There’s the COVID battered economy, marred by a still dangerous public health crisis, millions of unemployed, and thousands of businesses tottering on the brink of extinction. The crisis is made worse by the absolute refusal of Trump and McConnell to pump the massive amount of stimulus money needed to aid needy displaced workers and businesspersons.
Biden’s first order of business will be to try to get agreement between Congressional Democrats and Republicans on a stimulus deal. Even with a Democratic controlled Senate, he’ll still have to fight the same battles again with McConnell and a penny pinching and hostile skeptical GOP over cost, the length of time for funding, and how to measure its effect.
Biden will be quickly thrust into the brewing battle over pending SCOTUS cases on the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade. Both will ignite a public firestorm on both sides of the battle lines on these two hyper volatile issues. Biden will be tugged hard at by both sides to act. The question then becomes just what action to take. He could push quickly for a new ACA with his oft advocated public option as part of it. He could back a congressional amendment or legislation reaffirming a woman’s right to choose. That could bog the Biden administration down in a protracted slug fest on these issues. This would play into McConnell and the GOP’s hands by slowing down getting confirmation of Biden nominations and appointments to federal courts and administration posts. There’s also the array of housing, education, foreign policy, and spending decisions that will be on the table.
Biden will be pushed to sign off on a rash of executive orders on education reforms and enhanced environmental and consumer financial protections. These were reforms Obama penned by executive order and Trump moved quickly to try and wipe out. When Biden uses his executive pe, he will evoke the same howls Obama got from McConnell and the GOP that he is a tyrant, dictator, and abusing the power of his office by usurping Congress.
Then there’s the issue of criminal justice reform. Biden will walk a continuous tightrope on this issue. He will be pushed hard by Black Lives Matter, criminal justice reform advocates, and civil rights groups to make good on his promises for reforms in community policing, police-community relations and to rein in police abuse. This will stir fierce backlash from police unions and conservatives that he’s encouraging lawlessness and weakening law enforcement.
He’ll also take heat from Democratic party progressives. They’ll clamor for Medicare for All, tough new financial regulations on the corporations, Wall Street, and the banks. They’ll demand new initiatives to narrow the wealth income gap and reduce poverty. Moderate and limited proposals on these issues won’t cut it with the progressives. Biden will be constantly hit with the charge that he’s too much a Beltway politician ready to cut deals with corporate interests.
President Biden will face a rough road ahead. Trump and the GOP saw to that during the campaign. McConnell and the GOP will continue to see to that once he’s in the Oval Office.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.