SPECIAL REPORT: OU political expert discusses massive expectations on President Biden following Trump era, amid COVID-19 pandemic

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – When Joe Biden became the President of the United States, the expectations upon him were high, perhaps unprecedented.

Biden was facing a once in a lifetime pandemic that already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, a struggling economy that had been debilitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a divided nation that was becoming increasingly characterized by vitriol.

FILE – In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo violent insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington. A month ago, the U.S. Capitol was besieged by Trump supporters angry about the former president’s loss. While lawmakers inside voted to affirm President Joe Biden’s win, they marched to the building and broke inside. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

The rage and vitriol boiled over when a mob of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in support of outgoing President Donald Trump, aiming to prevent the 2020 Presidential Election results from being confirmed.

Biden took the Oath of Office outside the Capitol, two weeks after the insurrectionists laid siege to it. In his inaugural address, he spoke of repairing and healing the deep fractures within American society.

“Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still have far to go. We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility. Much to repair. Much to restore. Much to heal. Much to build. And much to gain,” Biden said.

His lofty words seemed to acknowledge the massive expectations that much of the American public had placed upon him.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 20: Joe Biden is sworn in as U.S. President during his inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. During today’s inauguration ceremony Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Dr. Keith Gaddie, a political journalism expert and the President’s Associates Presidential Professor of Architecture & Journalism at the University of Oklahoma, said the public’s expectations for change depends in part upon the circumstances of the presidential election and the pressing issues of the time.

Dr. Keith Gaddie. Photo courtesy: OU website

“In this instance we have an incumbent president who was decisively defeated for reelection in the popular vote and the electoral college vote. There’s no denying that,” Gaddie said. “And the reason for that defeat seemed to be as much about style as anything else. A lot of the vote for the Democratic candidate for president was in fact not so much a vote for Joe Biden as it was a vote against Donald Trump, let’s start with that.

“So the question is, ‘If you’re rejecting Donald Trump, why are you rejecting Donald Trump?’”

For Biden to succeed, Gaddie said, he has to prosper in handling the urgent situation that many pundits say Trump failed to meet head-on – the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Joe Biden has placed his marker on succeeding in addressing the pandemic – 100 million doses administered in 100 days into the arms of Americans,” Gaddie said.

Dr. Joseph Varon hugs and comforts a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) during Thanksgiving at the United Memorial Medical Center on November 26, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

Biden’s plan is to use the broad authority available under previous legislation, such as the Defense Production Act, to activate vaccine manufacturing and distribution, according to Gaddie.

“If Joe Biden and his administration succeeds in this space, it buys him a lot of grace and goodwill with the public to act in other areas. If he fails in this space, however, it really hinders his ability to get anything done for the rest of his term,” Gaddie said.

Biden has also urged Americans to wear a face mask and follow social distancing guidelines when in public to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. He mandated that face masks be worn during travel as part of his national COVID-19 strategy, which he launched at the start of his presidency. Biden has made a point to wear a face mask when in public.

Trump, who rarely wore a face mask, mocked Biden during their presidential campaign in late September for wearing a mask, at which point more than 200,000 Americans had died from COVID-19. A few days later, Trump was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 05: U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up upon returning to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 05, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump spent three days hospitalized for coronavirus. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Trump was often criticized by medical officials, members of the public and Democratic politicians for downplaying the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and saying that it would eventually go away on its own. However, the pandemic did not go away on its own.

The United States has had 556,185 COVID-19-related deaths as of Tuesday, April 6, and 30,828,216 coronavirus cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine COVID-19 dashboard. There have been 2,865,677 million COVID deaths worldwide, as of Tuesday. The United States has the leading number of deaths in the world with 19 percent of total deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

When Biden took office, he pledged 100 millions COVID-19 vaccine shots would be administered in the United States within his first 100 days as president. The nation hit that mark on March 19. Biden has since set a new goal – 200 million vaccine shots administered within his first 100 days.

The website FiveThirtyEight, which provides opinion polls and analysis on politics and national issues, posted polls comparing Biden’s response to the pandemic so far to Trump’s response.

So far, according to the polls, most Americans approve of Biden’s efforts toward stemming the pandemic tide. However, a majority of Americans did not approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

A majority of Americans disapproved of President Donald Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to this FiveThirtyEight poll.
Most Americans have a favorable opinion of President Joe Biden’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden faced several strong challengers in the Democratic Presidential Primary, including Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar and then-Senator Kamala Harris, who is now Biden’s vice president.

Biden possessed all the qualities that made him the most viable candidate to defeat Trump, according to Gaddie.

“Joe Biden won the Democratic Party Primary based upon connection, reputation, credibility and electability. He was deemed to be the most likely candidate who could beat Donald Trump head-to-head. And he did,” Gaddie said.

Many Americans voted for Biden, expecting him to changes the nation’s course from where Trump had taken it.

Most Americans, Gaddie said, were eager for change, with a large number voting uncharacteristically to bring it about.

Gaddie said Biden’s victory in Georgia, a reliably Republican state that also elected two Democratic senators this past election, supports the argument that Biden was elected to be a change agent.

“The question is, do they misread the scope of their mandate?” he said.