Biden begins to dismantle Trump’s legacy

President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
Photo credit: Reuters/ Tom Brenner

Despite having only been in office for a few days, Biden has already taken great pains to differentiate his administration from his predecessor’s. The new President signed 17 executive orders throughout his first day in office, many of which directly targeted Trump-era policies.

Biden quickly introduced multiple initiatives to undo Trump’s hard-line legacy on immigration. Funding for the border wall, his predecessor’s headline policy, has been immediately stopped and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, which enshrined the right to work for children of undocumented immigrants, has been fortified.

Additionally, the travel ban on mainly Muslim-majority countries, one of Trump’s earliest immigration measures, has also been terminated.

The new President also implemented directives to address environmental concerns. The United States has re-signed the Paris Climate Accords after officially withdrawing under the Trump administration on November 4th.

Furthermore, Biden officially cancelled the long-controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline which would have run from Canada to the US but risked damaging regional ecosystems.

In an attempt to reverse Trump’s laissez-faire response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Biden announced the ‘100 Days Masking Challenge’ which made face masks and social distancing obligatory in federal buildings and encouraged private citizens to take similar steps to reduce the spread of the virus.

He also brought the US back into the World Health Organisation after Trump moved to withdraw in July 2020.

On his second day in office, Biden signed 10 further executive orders and unveiled a seven-point plan to combat the spread of the virus, all intended to form part of a new, far more stringent federal Covid-19 strategy which he likened to a ‘wartime undertaking.’

He also revealed plans to accelerate vaccine distribution with a goal of 100 million doses delivered in his first 100 days in office, extended the mask guidance implemented the day before to most forms of public transport and announced the new position of Covid-19 Response Co-ordinator, who would preside over the procurement and distribution of vaccine doses and medical equipment.

The new President’s Covid-19 plan also accounts for more generous financial aid for both citizens and businesses, coming at a cost of $1.9 trillion altogether.

Additionally, an incoming President has the opportunity to redesign the Oval Office, bringing in décor which often sets the tone for the new administration’s legislative agenda. The new interior design features busts of prominent civil rights leaders Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and César Chávez, whilst a similar model of wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a portrait of controversial slave-owning President Andrew Jackson have both been removed – perhaps intended to project a message of support for racial equality and the Black Lives Matter movement.

A bust of Mexican American labor leader Cesar Chavez joins family photos behind the Resolute Desk. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Pictured: A bust of trade unionist and civil rights activist César Chávez features prominently among framed family photos directly behind the President’s desk in the redesigned Oval Office. Photo credit: Reuters/ Jonathan Ernst

Biden’s first week was partially marred after photos of National Guard members sleeping in a Capitol car park emerged online on Friday. Around 25,000 members of the reserve force had been deployed to Washington D.C. to prevent violence similar to that seen after a Trump rally earlier in the month, but not all had been provided with suitable accommodation. The President called the chief of the National Guard Bureau to apologise after the pictures were condemned across the political spectrum.

The new President has also already had his first calls with world leaders since his inauguration. His first was with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who expressed disapproval of Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL oil pipeline although affirmed their joint commitment to climate change prevention.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the first European leader to receive a call from an inaugurated Biden on Saturday, which reportedly included discussions about the COP26 Climate Change Conference set to take place in Glasgow in November and the potential for a post-Brexit UK-US free trade deal.