With everything our world has endured in the last year, perhaps you’d be forgiven for forgetting the theme of a silly presidential campaign. Joe Biden’s message of “unity” resonated with voters enough to push him past a crowded Democratic field and into the White House. But now that President Biden has had three weeks in office, how is he doing on keeping his pledge to unify America?
Well the short answer is, not so well. But this is not to say that he doesn’t face a complete mess. Before Biden was even elected and before insurrectionists stormed the Capitol , he should’ve known that uniting a nation at this moment in history would be nearly impossible. Above all else, the president has disappointed in a few major areas.
First, there are inconsistencies between his policies and actions. I am hesitant to call it outright “hypocrisy,” as I believe this word is thrown around too much in politics, but you can certainly make this case. Almost immediately after taking office, Biden signed an executive order mandating mask-wearing on federal property. But mere hours later, a maskless Biden was spotted at the Lincoln Memorial with a few of his family members.
Perhaps more infuriating than this inconsistency was the response of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. When confronted by Fox correspondent Peter Doocy about her boss’ masklessness, Psaki responded that Biden was “celebrating” a historic day in America. Whether the president adhered to social distancing guidelines at the Lincoln Memorial or not, the incident represents his fundamental misunderstanding that you cannot create unity through inconsistency.
If this did not bother enough people, the Biden administration’s push for transgender athlete equality certainly did. Female athletes and parents across the country have mobilized against what politicians from Tulsi Gabbard to Nikki Haley have called an attack on Title IX’s protections for women’s sports. This is consistent with a February 2020 poll, which found that a majority of Americans opposed allowing transgender athletes to compete in divisions outside of their biological sex. By pushing the issue, Biden is showing that he is out of touch with voters’ positions; he is attempting to steer the national dialogue as opposed to reflecting the will of his people.
My final criticism of Biden’s effort to unite comes in a favorite topic of mine: the executive order. The president played himself by violating his own mask mandate, but this is the tip of the iceberg. Executive orders are an effective, yet unpopular way to govern. By signing 28 executive orders in his first two weeks, Biden has shown his commitment to agenda over compromise and the legislative process. (For context, Franklin Roosevelt signed a record 30 executive orders in his first month in office.)
Biden’s executive strongman approach to governing has also shown itself through his interactions with the 117th Congress. Last week, the president seemed content to push the Democrat’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package through our legislature without any Republican support. Not only does this signal a breakdown in the message of unity, but even Biden’s allies—like former Obama advisor Larry Summers—have expressed concern about his approach. Even Bernie Sanders took a shot at the logistics of Biden’s plan on Twitter.[Text Wrapping Break]
In just a few weeks, President Biden’s efforts to unite the country leave much to be desired. But after all, it has been just a few weeks during a wild time in our history.