So far, so good for President-elect Joe Biden. Even in this rocky transition, where the current president can’t bring himself to concede the election even in the face of the numbers, legal defeats and Attorney General William Barr’s recent statement that the Justice Department hasn’t found evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election, I feel hopeful that we are at least tiptoeing toward normalcy. Ultimately, of course, Biden’s actions will speak louder than words. In the runup to Jan. 21, 2021, here are a few things the president-elect might consider working on.
1. Vaccine distribution. A lot of attention is on distributing the two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that are nearing FDA approval. Much of the distribution process was planned out before Biden won, and Gen. Gus Perna has done a stellar job. Some vaccine doses are already in place for distribution. It’s now about timing, and making sure there are backup plans for every conceivable problem that could arise in order to maximize the numbers of Americans inoculated.
2. Initiate a vaccine education campaign. Right now an unsettling 49% of Americans in a recent Pew Research poll said they wouldn’t or likely wouldn’t get the vaccine. This is the result of the propaganda campaign waged by President Trump and his science adviser Scott Atlas, who thankfully just resigned. Thanks to them and others, there is mistrust of the vaccine, especially in communities of color, and without that trust, getting enough of the population immunized in order to achieve the herd immunity necessary for life to return to normal will be a major challenge. Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University’s School of Public Health told “The View” that 70 to 80% would have to be vaccinated to hit this mark.
3. Execute a new stimulus bill. I’m not sure how this vital need seems to have been backburnered at a time when Americans are waiting for miles in food lines and the country faces another surge. I remember Sen. Mitch McConnell, who stopped efforts for a second stimulus bill, saying that getting one out would be the first order of business after the election. Well, here we are.
Both parties need to adopt a new, collaborative approach for the sake of helping the American people who are hurting and dying. One of Biden’s best attributes is his ability to cross the aisle to get things done. The American people need help now.
4. Diversify the team even more. I love all Biden’s Cabinet appointees, especially Cuban-American Alejandro Mayorkas for Homeland Security. The treatment of Hispanics has been abysmal under Trump. The all-female communications team is a standout. I love it that so much history is being made simply by making sure that America is truly represented — finally. But there is a lack of generational diversity in some areas, such as adding more millennials and up-and-coming young leaders into the mix. While we are building back America, it would also be good to build a foundation for the future that also empowers young people who turned out to vote in high numbers. Perhaps a Youth Cabinet position? I also like Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg and it would be nice to see some Republicans on the team — two standouts for me are former Gov. John Kasich and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
5. Avoid party division. I don’t think it came as a surprise to many that Biden’s appointments would be smart, strategic and experienced folks — many of whom he knew and had worked with before. He has to hit the ground running, and all hell would have broken loose in the Senate had Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, two polarizing figures, been appointed to key posts in the Biden Administration. To be sure, Sen. Warren’s credentials are no match for those of Janet Yellen, but there can be areas of collaboration and ideas shared that weren’t possible in the Trump Administration.
While Biden will preside over a polarized country, real or manufactured rifts within his own party need to be kept to a minimum in order to get America back on track.
That is Job No. 1.
Joyce Ferriabough Bolling is a media and political strategist and communications specialist.
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