A country in crisis? The challenges facing America as Biden wins presidency

By Michael Drummond, PA South East Correspondent
·4-min read

Perhaps never before has a new US president been immediately faced with such tough challenges on his first day as Joe Biden when he takes the oath in January.

After his win in Tuesday’s polls following a bitter and heated race, Mr Biden will take the helm of a nation beset by complex problems, from spiralling Covid-19 cases and a battered economy to climate change and a divided society.

And while a lot can change between election night and inauguration day on January 20, here are some of the main challenges facing America.

– The Covid-19 pandemic

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President Donald Trump threatened to fire infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci (Alex Brandon/AP)

Cases of coronavirus in the US are spiralling to new highs, despite claims by President Donald Trump that the administration is “turning the corner”.

Nearly 10 million people have contracted the virus so far and more than 230,000 have died, according to figures by the New York Times.

Mr Biden has pledged to listen to science, ensure public health decisions are informed by public health professionals, and vowed to restore trust and accountability.

His first call may well be rehiring popular top US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci, whom Mr Trump had threatened to fire after the election.

– A run-in with the conservative-leaning Supreme Court

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President Donald Trump chose Amy Coney Barrett to replace revered justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Supreme Court (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The death of revered Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her replacement with Amy Coney Barrett means that the nation’s top court now has a 6-3 conservative majority.

In recent years the court has narrowly ruled in favour of same-sex marriage and preserved abortion rights despite a 5-4 conservative leaning.

But the new make-up of the court could spell trouble for Democrat Mr Biden, not least because Mr Trump vowed to bring the election before the justices in the event of a contested result.

– Jobs and the economy

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Joe Biden faces a challenge in terms of the economy with the US employment rate higher than it was in the Great Recession (AP)

Mr Biden will face a tough task in righting the ship when it comes to an economy ravaged by the pandemic.

Millions have lost their jobs and the unemployment rate is higher than it was in the Great Recession in 2007-09.

The economy shrank by more than 30% in the second quarter but has since made strong gains, it has been reported.

The former vice president has pledged to “build back better” and create millions of jobs by putting people to work by enlisting them to help fight the pandemic, including through a public health jobs corps.

– Climate change

As well as grappling with Covid and the economy, Mr Biden takes the top job amid increasingly urgent calls for action on climate change.

Under President Trump, the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement, prompting criticism from the international community.

– Division in American society and calls for action over systemic racism

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George Floyd’s brother, Terrence, speaks to a crowd during a rally in Brooklyn, New York (John Minchillo/AP)

The past four years have seen US society become increasingly divided and Mr Biden framed the election as a battle for the soul of America.

There have been widespread protests calling out racism in the country following the fatal arrest of George Floyd by police.

Meanwhile, there has been a notable rise in activity by far-right groups.

– A trade deal with Britain?

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Joe Biden, then US Vice President , met then prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street (Neil Hall/PA)

Also on Mr Biden’s to-do list will be making a decision over any post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.

With the December 31 end of the transition period approaching, Britain has been keen to negotiate trade deals with nations outside of the EU.

Mr Biden has previously tweeted that any trade deal “must be contingent” upon respect for the Good Friday Agreement and preventing the return of a hard border in Ireland.

– Global perception of America

The US’s global popularity has suffered in recent years and has taken a particularly big hit due to its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

A 13-nation study by the Pew Research Centre found that a median of just 15% say the US has done a good job of dealing with the outbreak.

The study also found that 41% of people polled in the UK expressed a favourable opinion of the US in general while only 31% in France saw the US positively.