By: T. Jeffersonian
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) first used the term “First 100 Days” in 1933. During the First 100 Days of FDR’s first term, 13 major pieces of New Deal legislation were enacted to ease the suffering of the Great Depression. Every President since FDR have used the First 100 Days as a bench mark to gauge their Administrations initial successes and the potential for their Administration’s long-term successes. The Media and to a lesser extent the American People writ large have expectations for President-elect Joe Biden and his Administration to show successes in the First 100 Days.
What can we possibly expect from the Biden Administration during the First 100 Days from January 20, 2021 – April 20, 2021? Dependent upon the outcome of the two Georgia Senate runoff races this week, Joe Biden may benefit from both the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch being controlled by the Democrats. These benefits would come in the form of legislative consensus and enduring laws. With Democrats controlling both Congress and the Presidency, Biden will rely less on Executive Orders which are divisive, temporary, and difficult to enforce. If the Senate remains Republican, Biden may still be okay because he served in the Senate for 36 years. He knows the Senate processes and the people. This familiarity has with it a high probability of bipartisan cooperation. The potential for bipartisan cooperation is higher because Biden has actively sought to differentiate his forthcoming Administration from Barrack Obama’s Administrations. Biden has deliberately said, “My Administration will not be a third Obama Administration”. Biden has also picked cabinet members and advisors based upon their loyalty to him and not necessarily loyalty to Barrack Obama. Biden has also said that he will not deliberately move toward prosecuting Donald Trump or Trump officials because he wants to stop the divisions. All of this leads me to believe that Biden will attempt to govern more from the center as opposed to Obama’s more leftist leanings. This centrist approach will be initially helpful in governing and to potentially getting things done.
What will possibly get done in the First 100 Days? The most important thing for the Biden Administration is to alleviate Coronavirus. He was elected primarily because the majority of Americans believed that his Coronavirus response would be the most effective. The President does not have the Constitutional Authority to enact a mask mandate for 100 Days. He can ask the public and the state and territorial governors to abide by a mandate, but the President does not have the authority to enforce it. Congress could amend the Constitution and grant the President such authority or Congress could pass some type of legislation mandating masks to some extent, but amendments and legislations will exceed the First 100 Days. President Biden will work to have vaccinations made, distributed, and given faster. He will probably enact the Defense Production Act to some degree to facilitate quicker inoculations. Three things are going to cause problems for quicker inoculations and for getting back to normal: (1) the new Coronavirus mutations from the United Kingdom and South Africa; (2) President Trump rallies and political instability; and (3) federal health officials openly disagreeing with the new administration. We do not know the full effectiveness of the vaccines against the new mutations. We believe the vaccines will be effective against them; but there will need to be tests conducted. Tests which take time unfortunately. Dealing with an angry President Trump and his supporters causing political instability will also take time and attention. As much as Biden may want malice for none and justice for all, he may be forced to pursue Trump legally in an effort to remove the causes of instability. Finally, following the science to defeat Coronavirus will ultimately lead to instability within the Biden Administration. It may not be in the First 100 Days, but Biden and his team will probably have to eventually deal with Dr. Tony Fauci having a divergent public voice on the federal government’s Coronavirus response. Biden will also have to deal with Republican Governors, Senators, and Representatives who are positioning to run against him in 2024. You already see some of them re-emerging this week during the Electoral College objections. Publicly, these Republicans will oppose Biden vehemently; however, behind closed doors there will be cooperation to an extent.
On foreign policy, Biden will seek a détente more cooperative atmosphere with China. This détente may last for a year or so; however, the Sino-American relationship since Biden served as Vice President. China no longer conceals its weaknesses and bids its time. China has arrived and is assertive through its “Wolf Warrior” foreign policy. There is no putting the Chinese genie back into the bottle, but for the First 100 Days there will be détente. Another genie that is out of the bottle is Iran. The first foreign policy crisis that Biden will likely have to deal with is Iran. Again, the Middle Eastern dynamic has changed with Arab state recognition of Israel and closer alignment of the Sunni Arab states against Iran. Iran has seized a South Korean ship, getting this ship safely back and preventing other ships from being taken, will be the first foreign policy concern. The North Koreans have been quiet and somewhat cooperative since the Summits and overtures by President Trump. Biden’s team will quietly seek to keep this relationship and expand on it. There is currently no relationship with the Russians to expand upon. The United States – Russia relationship is really no different today than it was in 2017 when Trump was inaugurated. Russia will likely do something such as hacking or pressing Syrian or Libyan ambitions to remind the Biden Administration that Russia is still there and is a major player in the world.
Like all Presidencies since 1933, the First 100 Days will be important to demonstrate success and potentials for success for the new President and his team. Joe Biden is the oldest President ever elected. Due to his age, he will personally feel a need to demonstrate his energy to get the job done. He will be distracted by student loan forgiveness, universal health care, climate change, immigration reform, and Green New Deals from his own party. He will be distracted by an angry Trump and emerging Republican contenders from the other side. If he keeps his eyes on quickly alleviating Coronavirus and returning the country toward normalcy, he will be deemed to having a successful First 100 Days.