Four students from across the political spectrum shared their views on the Biden presidency with the News. While a conservative student was concerned about the potential outsize impact of some progressive congressional Democrats on a Biden administration, two liberal students expressed concern about Republican obstructionism in the Senate and less progressive policy platforms from Biden than they would have liked. A fourth student, who considers himself to be independent but left-leaning, expressed greater optimism and hope for compromise.
Andrew Song ’22, a conservative student who chose to vote for Biden, was very open about what turned him away from the incumbent and what he is hoping for and nervous about in a Biden administration. He described a sense of pressure from the Republican Party to vote for Trump and that “if you did not vote for Trump then you were not truly a conservative.” He added, however, that the determining factor for his support of Biden was Trump’s COVID-19 response.
“It was atrocious,” Song said. “It was possibly the worst international response to any crisis I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”
Still, Song worries that the Biden administration will be heavily influenced by the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Among specific concerns, he cited defunding the police, removing the constitutional protection of the Second Amendment and implementing Medicare for All, which he sees as stripping away individual choice in healthcare.
President-elect Biden has said that he will not make any of those three policy changes.
“People should have the option to choose whatever plan is best for them,” Song said. He also cited foreign policy concerns, especially about China.
Biden’s “centrist or even conservative” stances drive Song’s support for Biden and his hopes for the next four years. As a student in the Energy Studies Program, Song noted his support for Biden’s plan for a transition towards renewable energy that still considers those who rely on fossil fuels for a living.
Song also listed other hopes for the coming four years: re-engaging with the global community, possibly breaking up Big Tech and maintaining a hawkish stance on China. Drawing on his background as a child of immigrants in the United States, Song said that he hopes Biden “allows for more pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”
At the other end of the spectrum stands self-described communist Nora Moreau ‘21 who was pessimistic about the prospect of the Biden presidency, not for its progressivism, but for a lack thereof. She sees this presidency as a continuation of the status quo that will do nothing to disturb the underlying social issues that the country faces.
One of the issues she highlighted was climate change. Under a Biden administration, she said, there will be a “nominal commitment to addressing climate change, but whether that will actually be reflected in policy, I’m a bit more doubtful.”
She said that it seems unlikely that any progressive change to welfare or taxes will actually be implemented and that “there is no reason to be excited about Biden policy-wise.”
Along with a sense of hopelessness, Moreau also expressed concern that the defeat of Trump will engender a sense of complacency among liberals and the media that will lead to a lack of scrutiny paid to any injustices occurring under Biden.
Despite the conservative fear of the influence of the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Moreau said that this was “nothing more than baseless fear mongering” in her view because that group holds very little sway in the Democratic Party today.
Daniel Inojosa ’23, chair of the Party of the Left, expressed a similarly exasperated attitude about the next four years. Describing his political ideology, he said that he is on the left and is “pragmatically speaking in support of Social Democrats, even though idealistically I might want a bit more than the Social Democrats have to offer.”
Inojosa is pessimistic for what might realistically be achieved over the next four years, but he expressed optimism about the possibility that student debt “might get canceled for a lot of people.” He noted similar feelings about climate change.
“I’m hopeful because I have no choice but to be hopeful about where we are able to go with climate policy, not because I see much action from the Biden Administration at all but, what else can you do?” Inojosa said.
Despite the improvements that may be possible in a Biden presidency, Inojosa expressed displeasure at both Biden’s lack of support for defunding the police and his choices for cabinet positions. He added that any progress Biden’s administration attempts will likely be hindered by an obstructionist Senate.
“I highly doubt that the Republicans will want to compromise with Biden,” Inojosa said. “They will do everything they can to sabotage Biden. Any hope for actually making this a successful presidency will depend on the map for 2022.”
Daevan Mangalmurti ’24, a “center-left independent” and Biden voter, was more optimistic as to what the incoming administration can achieve in the next four years and the positive impact such change will likely have. While he recognizes that much hinges on who controls the Senate, he said that he was “optimistic about a stimulus bill that is more redistributive and has a greater green energy focus.” He was also hopeful that a Biden administration might also reform prisons, healthcare and immigration in the next four years.
Contrary to what others expressed to the News, Mangalmurti said that he sees an “appetite for compromise” in Washington over the next two years given the likely shifting nature of the two major American parties once Trump has departed the political landscape.
He shared other liberals’ concern over obstructionism, saying that “we will have a very difficult time getting meaningful legislation passed if the Senate remains controlled by Mitch McConnell.”
He also said that liberals should temper their policy ideals with reality and that Democrats must “scale down their aspirations to match their capabilities. I am really worried about the Democrats not doing that during a Biden administration.”
According to a survey of the class of 2024, 78 percent of first years identify as either “very” or “somewhat” liberal, while 9.2 percent identify themselves as either “very” or “somewhat” conservative.
Philip Mousavizadeh | email@example.com