Getting Started: Despite Staunch Opposition From Trump, Biden Lays the Groundwork for Presidential Transition

Image Courtesy of NBC News 

By Justin Lamoureux 

President Trump may be refusing to concede the election, and contesting results in several key states, but President-elect Biden is moving full speed ahead with plans for the transition. Since declaring victory, Biden has started assembling what many have noted is an exceedingly diverse transition team. A solid majority (52%) of his transition staff are women, with 46% being people of color.“For months, the Biden-Harris transition has laid the groundwork for a Biden-Harris administration, and at the core of that work is an unrelenting commitment to diversity,” Ted Kaufman, co-chair of the Biden-Harris transition, said in a statement to CNN

Throughout his campaign, Biden emphasized the need for diversity in American politics. If the demographics of his transition team constitute any foreboding, his cabinet will be no exception. The president-elect broke few barriers, though, when he selected Ron Klain to be his chief-of-staff. 

Klain is very much a political insider; the Indianapolis native has served in numerous Democratic presidential administrations and spent nearly four decades in law and government. Klain and Biden have an extensive history of collaboration; during the Obama Administration, Klain served as then-Vice President Biden’s chief-of-staff. Perhaps more importantly, however, Klain was charged with leading the White House’s domestic and international response to the Ebola outbreak. This indicates a resolute commitment on Biden’s part to addressing the COVID-19 outbreak, and taking an approach that has resoundingly positive implications.  

Few question whether the president-elect is surrounding himself with highly-qualified individuals during a period that will likely prove crucial to his overall tenure. Nevertheless, he faces a major,and, to some extent, insurmountable, roadblock in the outgoing administration. Besides refusing to acknowledge Biden’s victory, President Trump has impeded attempts to facilitate a transition to the incoming administration on several fronts. For starters, the General Services Administration, which is tasked with handling government logistics, has refused to provide the transition team with necessary funding. This effectively delays Biden’s ability to lay the framework for programs that may prove consequential to his own administration’s future success. 

What’s more, the Trump Administration has continuously withheld crucial information from Biden and his staff. This includes denying the president-elect intelligence briefings, which has drawn criticism from a handful of Republican senators. The transition team also remains bereft of significant developments regarding the coronavirus pandemic; the withholding of such information has alarmed several prominent health officials, who fear that a lack of communication with the incoming administration could prove detrimental as cases spike across the country.  

So, what should ordinary people make of this dysfunctional transition? One of the most important takeaways should be that such discord between administrations is not normal. Traditionally, the peaceful transfer of power has represented a pivotal aspect of American democracy; this is because it solidifies a continuity of government, and demonstrates a sense of national unity to foreign powers

On a more practical level, a delayed transition could make it harder for prospective members of Biden’s staff and administration to receive the necessary security clearances. When Biden takes office, this will make it harder to appoint cabinet members and ensure the new president has the support necessary to handle a multitude of challenges. This could be especially problematic in the event of a national security crisis, to which the U.S. could be more susceptible if foreign adversaries take note of significant political disconnect.  

Granted, there is still time before the official transfer of power is slated to occur. The possibility remains that President Trump, or, at the very least, members of his party and administration, will move to recognize Biden’s victory. However, the limited coordination between the two parties could produce a host of complications in the weeks (or months) to come. It goes without saying these are not ordinary times; given the gravity of issues currently facing the country (specifically, a global pandemic and unprecedented party polarization), this transition could easily create a dangerous precedent followed by future administrations for years to come. 

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