Biden’s First 100 Days: Lowering Expectations for the New Administration
BY GEORGE JI '23
It's hard not to be optimistic about 2021. There's a new president, COVID-19 vaccinations are steadily increasing, and this is the year you can finally get that A+ you’ve been working for. As exciting as it is to set high expectations for the new year, it's equally important not to set yourself up for disappointment. The reality is, 2021 is probably going to be more like 2020 than 2022, the year we finally make contact with aliens. Currently, COVID-19 vaccinations are consistently failing to meet demand. Biden’s agenda outlines a promising first 100 days, but automatically assuming his success would be unrealistic to say the least. And lastly, I checked with your teacher, and uh...I think a B might be more realistic. So, instead of spoiling another perfectly good year for yourself, just lower your expectations.
Leading up to the inauguration, the new administration already faced high expectations. When people vote out an incumbent, they clearly expect change. From day one, Biden has been juggling a pandemic, an economic recession, a healthcare crisis, and a climate catastrophe. And as president, voters expected him to fix them. But Biden’s challenges began long before he stepped into the Oval Office.
The 2020 presidential election was highly contested. Former President Donald Trump insisted that he won “by a landslide,” despite losing both the electoral and the popular vote. Trump brought his claims of fraud to court, with most, if not all, being dismissed at their earliest stages. Though nothing ultimately arose from these lawsuits, Trump’s refusal to concede delayed the transition that would normally occur between administrations.
Typically, the transition process begins as early as two days after election day in order to ensure that the new administration has adequate time to fill crucial positions, receive national security briefings, and overall prepare for next four years. However, due to the election disputes, Biden’s transition process began on November 24th. As a result, Biden’s first cabinet nominee was not confirmed until the day of his inauguration, and as of March, only ten of the twenty-three members have been officially appointed.
However, this is not an isolated and unique incident. In the aftermath of the highly contested 2000 election, President Bill Clinton delayed the transition to a similar degree. Clinton’s vice president Al Gore disputed the results of the 2000 election, as he lost Florida by a narrow margin that ultimately cost him the presidency and fought bitterly to overturn the outcome. Only until mid-December did Al Gore concede the election, allowing the General Services Administration to proceed with the transition process. The transition period from Bill Clinton to George H.W. Bush was one of severe delays and bitter feelings.
Less than one year later, the World Trade Center and the Twin Towers were destroyed in the terrorist attack that claimed nearly 3,000 lives. In 2004, the 9/11 commission found that the slow transition impeded their ability to fill key national security roles within the Bush administration, leaving them unprepared to deal with the national crisis. Evidently, a slowed transition hampers an administration’s response to immediate crises. It can also severely stunt an administration’s ability to deal with future national security threats. Biden faces both.
As of now, Biden oversees a national crisis: one he is ill-equipped to deal with because of the slowed presidential transition. In the weeks before stepping into office, Biden made it clear that the ongoing pandemic and resulting economic recession were his priorities. As of February, the Biden administration has begun the process of expanding and accelerating vaccine distribution throughout the US. The Biden administration’s goal of 150 million doses in 100 days is achievable, experts say, but the effort has already run into a few issues because of the delayed transition.
During the transitional period, vaccine briefings were rare, and intel was neither detailed nor helpful. In addition to a struggling economy and a global pandemic to deal with, the Biden administration was left with, as Biden himself warned, a vaccine program that was “in worse shape than we anticipated or expected.” Since the inauguration, the White House has been scrambling to locate nearly 20 million unaccounted vaccine doses in the states. As time wears on, reaching their goal seems less and less likely.
However, even with the odds stacked against them, success would mean very little for the majority of Americans. The US Census Bureau estimates the population of the United States clocks in at around 330 million. If Biden’s plan succeeds, less than half of the country will have been vaccinated, and the nation still must wait long into the summer for conditions to improve.
Setting high expectations, especially for outcomes outside of your control, rarely helps anyone. The effects of the delayed presidential transition still haunt Biden’s administration. Despite the fact that vaccinations across the country are slowly increasing, it's important to realize that things will seldom go the way you want. Consequently, setting high expectations for the new administration and rushing the process remains baseless, so put your corona-free plans on hold; we are in this for the long haul.