As with any new presidency, the Biden administration arrives with hope, ambition and vision. It also arrives while facing extraordinary challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic and extreme discord throughout the nation.
Dealing with the public health and economic fallout of the pandemic will require fast, dedicated action from the administration. Dealing with discord will require a calming voice from Washington, D.C., one that focuses on this nation’s exceptionalism rather than our differences.
Following the turbulent years of the Trump presidency, restoring dignity to the office would perhaps be Biden’s greatest accomplishment. As we wrote editorially last month: “We will need solutions. But what we will need most from the new president and his team is character.”
While those items must be the focus of the new presidency, several policy issues will especially resonate in the Northwest:
• Trade. Trump’s approach to international trade has been harmful to this Washington. As the most trade-dependent state, we have felt the impact of a trade war with China, with the United States issuing tariffs on Chinese goods, followed by retaliatory tariffs from China. Those policies have hit the aerospace, agriculture and high-tech industries, each of which is crucial to our state.
Biden must push back against China’s trade policies, particularly the practice of intellectual theft. But enlisting the help of other trading partners and creating coalitions as a buffer against the Chinese would be more effective than an endless trade war.
• Environment. Biden has promised to enact policies designed to combat climate change, a sharp change of course from the previous administration. While the pandemic slowed carbon emissions because of a global economic downturn, 2020 was tied for the hottest year on record, according to data from NASA.
Although climate change is a concern for all communities, it draws particular interest in the Northwest. The people of the region long have embraced environmental protections, and we are well-situated to benefit from a growth in clean-energy industries. The new administration should focus on the economic potential of moving away from fossil fuels.
• Infrastructure. The United States long has ignored infrastructure, both before and during the Trump administration. We must invest in our future by bolstering our roads, bridges, railways and airports.
The Interstate 5 Bridge is a microcosm of the nation’s shortcomings, with a century-old crossing serving as the region’s most important economic and cultural junction. Progress toward a replacement bridge is essential for demonstrating that America is preparing for the future.
• Forests. Nearly half of Washington’s forests are owned by the federal government, requiring cooperation and synergy between federal and state officials.
The wildfires of last summer, which scorched rural areas and covered urban areas in a cough-inducing haze, highlighted the importance of the issue. Improved forest management is essential for reducing the scope and frequency of wildfires.
• Police. While law enforcement policies are largely the purview of local agencies, the federal government helps set an agenda to be followed by those agencies.
Racial unrest permeated American cities this past summer, with activists correctly pointing out disparities in police actions. Police reform will be an important part of starting to heal America’s wounds.