The Struggle for the Soul of America: A Time of Hope and Fear

We are living on the brink. On the one hand, the Electoral College will vote to elect Joe Biden as our next president on Monday.[1] Trump’s days in the White House are clearly numbered. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.

In addition, an advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend emergency use authorization of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine on Thursday. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to give final approval to the vaccine on Sunday.[2] Help is on the way.

On the other hand, it could be well into next year before most Americans receive a vaccination. There may not be enough vaccine for everyone for quite some time.[3] Even then, a substantial part of the population may not agree to be vaccinated given the conspiracy theories and claims the pandemic is a hoax.[4]

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate are much more interested in shielding corporations from liability for negligently failing to protect their workers from contracting COVID than providing critical aid to cities and states trying to maintain essential services for their weary citizens.[5]

At the same time, 17 red states are supporting Texas’s Motion to File a Complaint in the Supreme Court to overturn Biden’s victories in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. One hundred and twenty-five sycophant Republican members of Congress are backing the quixotic lawsuit which seeks to invalidate millions of votes in four battleground states which gave Biden the presidency.[6] Their crazed support for an unhinged president is destroying our democracy.

While the court challenge has practically no chance of succeeding, it does foment unrest among a great number of the Trump base. It also adds fuel to the Republican effort to undermine the Biden presidency. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently asserted that the Senate will not consider confirming any Biden nominations as long as the election results are in dispute.[7] This does not bode well for efforts to heal our nation or a successful Biden presidency.

And, if that weren’t more than enough headwinds for the new administration to overcome, Biden seems to be getting in his own way. He fully understands how critical winning the upcoming Georgia Senate runoffs is to accomplishing his legislative agenda. Still, Biden chose former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a white male who served as Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture, to head the Agriculture Department over Rep. Marcia Fudge, a black woman with 12 years on the House agriculture committee.

Biden picked Vilsack despite the fact that he “owes a massive debt to top Black Democrats who were also pushing for Fudge — above all House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, whose well-timed endorsement very likely gave Biden the nomination.”[8] Naming Fudge would have boosted Stacey Abrams and other Democrats’ drive to achieve the huge black turnout Democrats need to prevail in the Georgia election.

Yet, all is not lost. Biden can accomplish a great deal even without the Democrats controlling the Senate, if he acts boldly with his power of executive orders. Lincoln freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Roosevelt signed over 3,700 executive orders to help steer the country out of the Great Depression and mobilize the nation during World War II.[9]

Trump used executive orders to implement much of his agenda. Biden must, too. He can utilize these orders to marshal plans for expediting the distribution of the COVID vaccine, tackling climate change and getting the economy rolling again, among other priorities.

Our job is to keep the pressure on Biden to make sure that he employs his presidential powers fearlessly.  Let’s get to work.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See, the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at

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