Where is the Joe Biden we were promised?

Illustration by Kenzie Todd

Just over halfway through President Joe Biden’s first one hundred days, it has become increasingly clear that he has no intention of living up to the “most progressive democratic nominee in American history” moniker bestowed upon him during the General Election. While there was never much reason to believe the man who once assured a room full of wealthy donors that “nothing will fundamentally change” would be a revolutionary, Biden has been strikingly reluctant to embrace many of his more ambitious campaign promises.

The endless dithering over a long-awaited second stimulus bill serves as a particularly painful example of the consequences of a lack of political ambition. Although Biden campaigned on immediate $2,000 stimulus checks, this promise has now been softened to $1,400 checks sometime within his first one hundred days, leaving desperate families with no immediate source of relief. Some of the blame certainly falls on Republican obstructionism and the delays caused by former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, but it is difficult to believe that a party in control of Congress and the presidency is incapable of quickly passing such an essential piece of legislation. 

Furthermore, while the stimulus bill finally passed, Biden’s lack of vision has already begun to scuttle a number of other popular campaign promises. On the issue of canceling student debt, Biden appears more comfortable equivocating and discussing potential pitfalls than he does taking concrete action. During a recent CNN town hall, Biden gave a rambling answer to a question regarding debt cancellation, in which he firmly rejected the idea of canceling $50,000 in debt and appearing to suggest that students could instead get into real estate investing or have their parents mortgage their house in order to pay for college.

Such a nonchalant rejection of a wildly popular proposal suggests that Biden’s commitment to stability and normalcy has eroded his ability to take stock of the current moment in American history. The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted untold misery on a vast swath of the American people, exacerbating long-standing inequalities and driving even those who lead good lives before the pandemic to the brink of ruin. While norms certainly have their place in any well-functioning society, normalcy becomes cruelty when the status quo is fundamentally broken. Biden must cast aside his conservative inclinations and dare to attempt transformative change in order to rise to the occasion and live up to his promises.


bradle5@stolaf.edu

Max Bradley ’22 is from

Columbia, MO. His majors are philosophy and political science.