The 2020 election, which feels like it has gone on forever, should nevertheless be a source of pride for Americans, who exercised their right to vote in staggering numbers.
This election saw the largest turnout in decades, a sign of how we much Americans cherish this right and of how strongly we felt about the candidates on the ballot.
The results also show how divided the nation is. The House and Senate are now relatively close to parity.
So when President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January, he will dramatically change many of the policies of President Donald Trump. The Jewish community can expect many of those changes to significantly affect issues it holds dear. Let’s examine some of them:
Criminal Justice Reform
This has been an issue of primary concern in recent years, especially in Louisville. Trump did champion the bi-partisan First Step Act, which was, as its name suggests, just a first step in addressing the fundamental inequities in the criminal justice system, particularly for people of color. Biden has promised to go much further, calling for comprehensive reform of sentencing, law enforcement and post-incarceration rights.
If Congress remains divided, passage of major legislation will be difficult, but the new attorney general will still have considerable influence in this area. Expect the new administration to spend political capital on this issue.
Biden is diametrically opposed to Trump’s positions on this issue, and he will clearly move in a different direction. He has promised to end the ban on immigration from Muslim countries on the first day of his administration. He is expected to support “dreamers” – undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. He opposes construction of a new physical barrier on the southern border and he has generally promised to undo all of Trump’s immigration directives. Much can be done with executive orders on this issue; expect immediate and recognizable change.
Trump dramatically upended traditional U.S. policy on Israel in several ways:
He withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal, replacing it with sanctions, a move supported by Israel. He abandoned a land-for-peace policy based on the June 1967 borders, putting forth a peace plan for the Palestinians that incorporated roughly 30 percent of the West Bank as a permanent part of Israel. He moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and he recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel.
It is unknown how much of this will be rolled back under Biden. He has expressed a desire to re-enter the Iran deal, but that might be easier said than done. He will surely abandon the Trump peace plan but hasn’t indicated if he will move the embassy back to Tel Aviv. He has promised to restore financial aid to the Palestinians, but that might not be possible without congressional approval.
This probably represents the starkest change from one administration to the next. Trump famously denied climate change was occurring and his political appointments and executive orders reflected this stance. He also withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords, which abdicated U.S. leadership on this critical issue.
Biden has promised to rejoin the Paris Accords immediately, has advocated for revolutionary clean energy and environmental justice policies and, while he did not endorse the Green New Deal, he has called it a model and framework for the environmental challenges.
If Republicans hold the Senate, Biden’s legislative agenda will be severely curtailed, but a change in administrations will certainly usher in big changes on this issue.
(Matt Goldberg is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.)