Many challenges lay ahead for our nation's leaders
America has work to do.
The voters have selected Joe Biden as president as their vessel of decency, in the hope – hope not yet realized, outcomes not yet certain – of more normal, reasonable and respectable behavior by our national leaders.
But the deep damage of the past few years does not go away overnight. It does not go away easily. Some of the damage likely just won't be repaired ever, leaving scars.
Still, issues of the moment and issues long neglected demand Biden's attention.
We need a coherent coronavirus strategy, starting with clear and honest communication about where we stand, what individuals and communities need to do, and progress toward vaccines.
The country continues an urgently needed reckoning on race, a conversation that at long last has apparent momentum. At root, that is about seeing the full humanity and dignity of each other as people and citizens, owning up to enduring disparities and injustices, treating each other fairly – and demanding that our institutions do the same. Biden is an ally in this struggle and needs to lend energy and the full moral authority of the Oval Office to those efforts.
It's likely that our standing in the world will never fully recover. America has been inwardly focused and distracted. Our enemies have been emboldened, and our allies know – this is no longer just theoretical – we are just one election away from abandoning our responsibilities. Perhaps a degree of humility is needed as we re-engage with the world and work to repair the alliances and institutions that have served this nation's interests for generations. The most urgent task is assuring our NATO allies of our commitment.
Joe Biden can't fix Congress – particularly the long-broken and dysfunctional Senate – and we need a Congress capable of long-term thinking and occasionally the political courage to stand up to ever-widening executive reach. Which leaders will step up to take on that huge task?
Biden also cannot fix the rot at the core of our politics – the secret money that bankrolls our elected officials. That is the job of Congress, whose members logically enough do not want to see that happen. Running on the idea of good government draws few votes, so no change will come until enough of the people grow disgusted and act.
But tone matters, especially that of the president.
A coherent, realistic legislative agenda matters. The competent staffing of an entire administration matters. Listening to friends and foes – hammering out consensus – that matters a lot.
All of that plays to Biden's strengths. Hope is a starting point.