Biden inauguration: Americans' hopes and fears for next president

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When Joe Biden becomes US president on 20 January plenty of change is expected under his new administration.

For those who want to put Donald Trump in the rear view mirror, there's a lot to look forward to.

Others are not sure if he can bring unity to a divided country and enact lasting change.

Here's what members of our BBC voter panel told us.

Peyton Forte is a recent college graduate who now works as a reporter. She was not the big supporter of Biden and Kamala Harris, but says getting rid of Donald Trump is an urgent and necessary first step towards change.

What are you hopeful the Biden administration can accomplish?

For starters, easing the pandemic and ensuring more collaboration between federal and state governments on vaccine distribution. I'm looking forward to his stimulus packages to kickstart the economy and make sure people are actually alive to reap the benefits of it. We can also look forward to a president whose main mode of communication is not Twitter. The biggest thing is undoing the damage of the prior administration, from immigration laws to our relationships with foreign allies.

What are your fears for the Biden presidency?

To be honest, I haven't really gotten to that point because I'm so ready for the Trump administration to be gone. So ask me that question again in a few weeks. I'm really encouraged by Biden's financial and economic cabinet picks because I think he is trying to stunt the racial wealth gap. There will be a time and place to nitpick his choices, but not yet. As somebody who is black, I know he rejected calls to defund the police. The phrase is inflammatory, but that money is redirected into our communities, so I'd like for him to take another look at it and maybe he'll reconsider.

With so much talk of the need for unity and healing, where does the country go from here?

'Unity and healing' is the new 'thoughts and prayers'. I know it has been kind of a calling card for Biden to contrast himself with Trump, but I'm going to have to see it to believe it. Are you just faking it or are you doing the work to actually unify people? Time will tell if people actually want unity or if some are just mad that their candidate lost.

Jim is a property manager and conservative Republican who no longer supports President Trump since his refusal to accept the results of the election. He wants the incoming administration to find common ground rather than be too left wing.

What are your hopes for Biden?

I'm hopeful for some stability and less drama. America's standing in the world, particularly in the last couple of weeks, has really diminished and I would hope they would be able to return us to our traditional position in the world. I would like to see the bill he puts forward on Covid relief. If we're going to put money into people's hands, we need to make sure it actually makes a difference. Six hundred dollars is a slap in the face when you look at how we're giving away billions of dollars to other countries.

What are your fears about his presidency?

I am worried they're going to overreach and placate the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and create deeper polarisation. I worry they will try to pack the Supreme Court. I am concerned about immigration policy. I would hope they have the courage to be more moderate in tone, action and policy, at least for the first few years. That way, things can level off and then we can have reasonable debate about issues on a case-by-case basis. One side is really having a hard time accepting the reality of [Trump's] loss; that's too many people to just ignore and it seems like there's a real mood for retaliation.

How can Biden unify America?

Compromises will need to happen and both sides on the extreme right and left will not be happy with it. In the immediate moment, we need to have a good tone from the top that is conciliatory and respectful. I'm looking for Biden to reassure Americans their vote was secure and legitimate, restore a sense of public confidence and competence to the US government and spend serious time on rebuilding unity.

Lesley is a small business owner and an immigrant from Canada. Joe Biden was not her first choice for president by a long shot, but she now says he is "the best person" for this moment in the country's history and she hopes he can follow through.

What are your hopes for Biden?

I'm looking forward to real leadership and an administration that actually cares about getting things done. We need to get the virus under control. They have an actual plan; I hate that it's going to cost another $2tn, but it wouldn't have cost that if we had taken the time to do the hard work early. From climate change and fire management to infrastructure and renewable energy, they'll get us back on track. From a civil rights perspective, we have the greatest opportunity. The administration is diverse and he's trying to give everyone a seat at the table.

What are your fears about his presidency?

Nothing comes to mind. I feel like this administration is going to reset, refocus and prioritise things that should be prioritised. There's so much that needs to be addressed at once, but like the rest of the world, they have to learn to multitask and do their jobs.

Media caption,
What do countries around the world want from Joe Biden?

How can Biden unify America?

We need our elected officials, when doing their jobs, to not just represent one segment of the population. They can see what has happened by turning a blind eye and not listening. For the Democrats, they need to find a way to communicate so the concerns they've raised are taken seriously but without turning off the other side. For the Republicans, they need to pay attention not just to the loudest people - just being loud doesn't mean they're right. Moving forward, everybody has to do their part to prioritise what is best for the country. We're never going to get rid of the element that attacked the Capitol, but it's like herd immunity. The only people who were surprised by what happened last week were the ones who were not paying attention.

Jazmin is a writer and youth voting rights activist who says the past four years have damaged the psyche of young people. She wants the new administration to rebuild trust and show people like her that government can be a force for good in their lives.

What are your hopes for Biden?

I hope that the Biden administration is bold on climate, an equitable Covid economic recovery and racial justice. Personally though, I think we fundamentally need to look at our broken system. Restoring voting rights, stronger ethics and anti-corruption measures, as well as campaign finance reform can restore balance and transparency within our government, so we can trust in our elections and elected officials.

What are your fears about his presidency?

I've been thinking a lot about the pace of change. There's so much that needs to be done but we're also looking at departments that have been gutted. The damage of the past three years has been so deep and the rolling back of it will take a lot of time, so we have to practise patience and we have to be realistic.

How can Biden unify America?

Our government only works when people decide not to disengage and be cynical, but instead step up and figure out how to get involved. The events of the Capitol work were horrific and traumatising for so many people, but the day before it was a Georgia election with incredibly high youth voter turnout. There is a lot of vitriol and hate, but the majority of folks believe in working to ensure our country is serving the best interests of everyone.

Gabriel is a writer and the activism chair for the New York Young Republicans. He wishes the Biden administration good luck, but is concerned it will sow more division in a vulnerable moment for the country.

What are your hopes for Biden?

As an American, I am hopeful that things go well under this administration. I don't wish for Joe Biden to fail because the president is like the pilot of a plane: if he goes down, so do we. I hope he can answer the renewable energy debate, create more nuclear power plants and allow the United States to remain the number one exporter of energy. Hopefully, we'll see some sort of voter ID laws enforced, for greater election integrity. I hope he doesn't fuel more divisions.

What are your fears about his presidency?

My fear is that he will listen to people like AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and Bernie Sanders, who are trying to push him to accept more far left policies that will do more harm than good to the US in an economic sense. He may continue the harsh lockdowns and ignore censorship of conservatives. Under the Trump administration, we decreased our presence in the Middle East and were stopping the forever wars, so I really hope we don't return there.

How can Biden unify America?

After what happened at the Capitol, Biden came out and started very well, then devolved into race-baiting rhetoric - that's not something our country needs right now. There are millions of people who feel as though they were cheated and did not get a fair election, and some of them might not even recognise Biden as president, so it's very important that he treads lightly and focuses on unity. Don't lump them together as insurgents or other labels because you're going to further alienate people. Speak to every American and say that it is time to come together.