History teachers say Biden faces a difficult path with divided nation

Former Vice President Joe Biden was officially elected as the 46th president of the United States.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Former Vice President Joe Biden was officially elected as the 46th president of the United States.

By Alli Schroeder and Izzy Swanson

Fans of President-elect Joe Biden may be in for a rude awakening after he is sworn in, since he might not be able to accomplish many of his legislative goals without controlling the Senate, Baldwin history teachers say.

Two Senate races in Georgia are headed to a run-off, with Republicans currently holding a 50-48 lead in that house of Congress. If the Republicans win even one of those, they will maintain control. If Democrats win both, there would be a tie.

“There could possibly be a tie in the Senate, and then the vice president has the deciding vote,” history teacher Katie Temme said. “(Senate control) is a long shot for Democrats, but it could happen.”

As has happened in past presidencies, it would become much harder for Biden to get his proposals approved by Congress without the control of both houses of Congress. Donald Trump recently faced this with Democratic control of the House, and Republicans controlled the House and Senate in the final years of Barack Obama.

“If the GOP does maintain Senate control, it will be difficult for Biden to get anything done,” Temme said.

History teacher Doug Graff agreed.

“A divided government or gridlock certainly prevents a lot of initiatives from being passed, because congressional members usually stick to party lines,” Graff said. 

The only way Biden could enact his policies would be through executive orders. 

“Biden could possibly use executive orders to fix things such as child separation and immigration,” Temme said. 

Both parties, though, could see a need to change, based on the results of this election, the teachers said.

“Republicans need to learn to listen to urban and suburban Democrats, and Democrats need to learn to listen to rural Republicans,” Temme said. 

History teacher Jared Lambie agreed. 

“I think both parties are in states of flux or change,” he said. “Their messages will solidify as they move forward.”

“We are a divided nation,” Lambie said. “Biden needs to worry about the extremes of his party.” 

But Lambie believes the country will move forward, despite the concerns of people who wish for a return to the way things used to be.

“There will always be a group of people who say life was better back in the day. We don’t realize that life was different then and now,” he said.

Moving forward, Democrats should reframe some of their messages, the teachers said. Calls to “defund the police” are not popular, Temme said, and the party needs to be concerned with how the concept of “socialism” was used against its candidates.

“Democrats need to explain how socialism gets used and the nuances of socialism versus communism,” Temme said.

Graff agreed, explaining that most people do not realize the positive aspects of socialism that appear in their daily lives, like public education and military hospitals. 

“Biden will make an attempt to unify both parties, Graff said. “The results of the election send a message that we urgently need to unify this country.”

The results of the election send a message that we urgently need to unify this country.”

— Doug Graff

Biden said just that in his Saturday address to the nation.

“The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control,” Biden said. “It’s a decision. It’s a choice we make.” 

As for Republicans, the question is whether to turn away from the divisive tone of Trump or to stick with it. The 2024 election might see a familiar face on the Republican side, Graff said.

“I do think that Trump or members of Trump’s family will try to run again, because Trump has a very devout following, and I feel as though ‘Trumpism’ is a very popular ideology,” he said.

This story was originally published on Purbalite on November 8, 2020.