In 2008 as a young and green reporter in Washington, it was hard not to get swept up in the euphoria of the historic election of Barack Obama. I like to think I stayed objective in my reporting but the inescapable expectations of “change” from voters of the country’s first African-American president were infectious – and hard to fulfill. And yet, Obama’s first 100 days in office weren’t really about change at all. They were focused on more practical measures such as reviving an economy stuck in a financial crisis; it was only after that first sprint that other priorities, such as healthcare, climate change and immigration reform, took hold.
Similarly, as we look back on Joe Biden’s first 100 days this week, he should first and foremost be measured by his handling of the pandemic and the economic crisis that ensued. In the May issue of Monocle magazine, which is out today, Sasha Issenberg helps us take stock of his performance. We also feature interviews with key fixers from the realms of economics, media and education (for an in-depth look at the issue’s inaugural Design Awards, check out yesterday’s edition of our sister newsletter, The Monocle Minute on Design).
By the measure of crisis management it’s been a competent start: the US is well ahead of most countries in distributing vaccines and lawmakers have passed a massive $1.9trn (€1.6trn) stimulus package to boost growth. Now the hard part begins: Biden has intentions of being a transformational president and hopes to address two other long-standing crises: systemic racism and climate change. The proof will be in whether he can get real reforms through a divided Congress – and if he can bring the still-divided country along with him. As Issenberg notes, this is where both Obama and Donald Trump struggled. The question remains: can Biden do any different?