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Joe Biden: Promising a return to normal as Democratic president

Joe Biden, who spent most of his life serving in Washington as a Democratic senator and then vice president under Barack Obama, will finally find himself taking the reins of power in the United States.

Washington, 20 January 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Joe Biden, who spent most of his life serving in Washington as a Democratic senator and then vice president under Barack Obama, will finally find himself taking the reins of power in the United States.

On Wednesday Biden will be sworn in as the country’s 46th president. Amid a raging pandemic and ramped up security in the wake of the deadly storming of Congress, Biden’s inauguration promises to be like no other.

Biden has vowed to turn a page on Donald Trump’s brash and uncompromising style, and to restore American politics to a state of civility.

He plans to immediately reverse key Trump policies, such as rejoining the Paris climate agreement and undoing the Republican president’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization.

But Biden can’t consign Trump to the past as quickly as he might like, with the real estate magnate’s impeachment trial threatening to overshadow the earliest days of the Democrat’s presidency.

Biden has called on Senate leaders to avoid an all-consuming trial so that they can focus on confirming his cabinet picks.

Urgent agenda items for his incoming administration include tackling the rampant coronavirus pandemic as well as the related economic crisis and chaos surrounding the rollout of a vaccine.

Biden’s ability to implement his agenda was given a boost by the recent victory of two Democrats in Georgia Senate races, resulting in an even split between Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the upper chamber.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris can act as a tie breaker, giving Democrats the upper hand.

Democrats also control the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, by a narrow majority.

At the age of 78, Biden will be sworn in as the oldest president in the nation’s history.

Biden was the long-serving senator from Delaware – having first won the seat at the age of 29 – before being tapped as vice president to provide a seasoned Washington perspective to Barack Obama who won the White House in 2008 as a relative newcomer to national politics.

While he is ever more grey and his speech is showing some signs of slowing, Biden brings decades of experience to the table. His inclination for reaching out to political opponents could help phase out an era of fierce partisanship in Washington.

The one-time lawyer pitched himself during the presidential campaign as a moderate “everyman” who can relate to the problems faced by working people, while embracing some progressive ideas, like tackling climate change and improving health care.

He took a relatively low-key approach to campaigning, in part due to the pandemic, but often, it seemed, he was letting Trump seize the spotlight, making the election a referendum on an incumbent who often talked himself into trouble.

Biden, who studiously avoided radical politics during the months of campaigning, has denounced Trump as a chaos agent and much of his outreach to voters was centred on a pledge to return to a better and calmer version of life pre-Trump.

He is religious, but moderate; liberal, but not overly so. Biden capitalized on this in the election as he played for the centre ground, while holding his left-flank and even bringing on board disenfranchised Republicans.

Biden’s election victory, with tight wins in key swing states, came after two failed presidential campaigns in 1988 and 2008, with multiple family tragedies upending his life and political plans.

In 1987, Biden’s hope to become president ended swiftly, when he was rather credibly accused of plagiarizing a speech during a primary campaign. In 2008, his remark that Obama was not yet ready to be president came back to haunt him during the election.

In 2016, he chose not to run after eight years as vice president, after his son died of cancer and he decided to spend time with his grandchildren.

It was the latest personal setback for Biden.

His first wife and a daughter died in a car accident in 1972. His sons were badly injured. He nevertheless took his Senate seat but travelled between his home state Delaware and Washington so he could see his two boys each night.

His use of the train became something of a trademark and added to Biden’s popularity. It was still employed by his 2020 campaign – along with his famous love of ice cream – to market Biden as relatable and understanding of blue-collar workers.

His past political baggage includes a crime bill viewed by progressives as having contributed to spiking incarceration rates, and chairing the contentious Anita Hill testimony on sexual harassment – a moment in Congress now seen in a poor light by liberals.

Biden has admitted he made mistakes with regards to his approach to carceral policy and has promised reforms.

On foreign policy, he has indicated he will be tougher on trade relations with China.

But Biden’s main priority is to restore stability and competence to the White House. Many of his cabinet picks mirror that goal, bringing experience and credibility to the team.

Biden also followed through on his pledge to create a diverse cabinet that “looks like America” with barrier-breaking nominations, such as the first black person to helm the Pentagon and the first woman for Treasury secretary.

Harris also embodies that goal, becoming the first ever woman and first black person to be vice president.

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