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The challenges that Joe Biden will face on his first day in office are truly legion.
He faces an out-of-control pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans and has devastated many parts of the economy, while making worse economic and social inequalities.
He must confront violent, domestic extremists so bold that they invaded the U.S. Capitol at the urging of then-President Donald Trump, and he must confront international foes who have meddled in our elections and invaded our nation’s cyber systems.
China, Russia and Iran remain vexing challenges, bubbling and dangerous.
There’s global climate change, a real and existential threat, made worse by the policies of the past four years.
He comes to office with Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, but that control rests on the thinnest of margins.
Throughout his campaign, Biden has reiterated his desire to work with Republicans for responsible solutions to the problems the country faces when all of us know that there are few Republicans in Congress with the courage to diverge from obstruction.
He comes with the expectations of quick, decisive action from a broad coalition that helped to deliver him to the White House weighing on his shoulders.
And yet, Biden has shown himself capable of rising to the challenge. He has managed the transition into the White House professionally and with little drama, much the way he campaigned.
He has nominated the most diverse Cabinet in history, keeping his promise that his administration would look like America. His nominees include Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant U.S. secretary of health. If confirmed, Levine would be the first openly transgender person approved for a Senate-confirmed position.
Now there will be stumbles, and Biden’s aggressive agenda will likely meet resistance from Republicans, some Democrats and a host of interest groups who are invested in the status quo or who favor alternative policy solutions to real problems.
Conservatives will try to put the brakes on while progressives will urge Biden to keep his foot on the gas for big changes. All the while, 74 million Trump voters will be watching with skeptical eyes.
With all the challenges — and all the changes to the norms that have held our democracy together for the last four years — I have two big expectations for the Biden administration.
First, the president and his team will take bold action quickly toward their policy initiatives. They will give Republicans a chance to come along in places where there is common ground, but Biden will not be left at the altar by obstructionists.
Second, after a period of adjustment, the look of the White House and the executive branch will return to something closer to normal. For the past four years, the Trump administration has been defined by the chaos it has created as it has ignored past practice and the law and chipped away at the foundations of our country. It was government by tweet, driven by the egotistical whims of a single man.
As we experienced in Maine when Gov. Janet Mills replaced former Gov. Paul LePage, there is a relief that comes to the people when the leader isn’t constantly making headlines for outrageous actions, insults, attacks and incoherent and illegal policies.
When Mills moved into the Blaine House, she brought the personality of a professional doing serious work for the people, and she treated the office with respect. The headlines changed from bombast and bluster.
I expect the same change coming from Washington.
Critics will still launch unfair broadsides against the president, just as they have done with Mills and her response to COVID-19. There’s likely no going back on the overheated rhetoric of those seeding division.
But from Biden and his team, we will see a level of honesty, empathy, transparency and professionalism that voters should expect from all leaders.
And — and this is a big and — we won’t have to jump on Twitter at 4 a.m. to try to divine the whims of our president and their implications on our lives and our world.