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Biden has his work cut out for him

Joe Biden’s successful campaign against Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Overnight Health Care: FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents | Biden administration reverses limits on LGBTQ health protections Overnight Defense: US fires 30 warning shots at Iranian boats | Kabul attack heightens fears of Afghan women's fates | Democratic Party leaders push Biden on rejoining Iran deal MORE to reach the White House was nasty, brutish and long. His fight to save the nation after his inauguration will be even harder. 

The 46th president will confront a divided country beset by unprecedented and complex set of difficulties. Election returns and exit polls revealed sharp differences between men and women and white and minority Americans. The new president will immediately need to confront the ravages of the pandemic, rebuild a shattered economy and address the looming threat of climate change. 

His response to these challenges will be limited by a Republican Senate, a solidly conservative Supreme Court majority, hostility from Trump supporters and differences within his own party between establishment and progressive Democrats.

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An analysis of the national exit polling shines a bright light on the divisions in American society. Women voters supported the Democratic nominee while the GOP standard bearer maintained his support from male voters. Biden enjoyed a big edge with non-white Americans while white voters stuck with the incumbent. The former vice president has campaigned as a unifying figure who can end the divisions of the Trump era and he will need to deliver on that promise to be an effective president.

The pandemic isn’t going anywhere soon despite frequent Trump’s assurances that the nation has turned the corner on the deadly outbreak. The number of new pandemic cases spiked to a record high last week. The fight against COVID-19 will require the expenditure of time, energy and political capital that the new president will require to solve other problems.

The recession was a direct consequence of Trump’s failure to effectively fight COVID-19. Even if the pandemic dissipates, the new president will still have to aggressively tackle the economic problems that confront the nation. Millions of people lost their jobs during the pandemic and many of them won’t have jobs to return to when and if the pandemic finally subsides.

Biden outlined his priorities recently in an interview with the podcast Pod Save America, “Get control of the coronavirus. Without that nothing else will work well. Number one. Number two, invest in the community, in real infrastructure.” 

Biden’s priorities in the first chapter of his presidency are key because history has demonstrated that the major energy in a presidency comes early and dwindles as time goes on. 

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But other urgent problems face Trump’s successor.

The concern about the pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn has driven dangers of climate change off the stage. The threat of climate change won’t disappear just because politicians didn’t discuss it as much during the campaign. If a President BidenJoe BidenCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Manchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Overnight Energy: 5 takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline attack | Colonial aims to 'substantially' restore pipeline operations by end of week | Three questions about Biden's conservation goals MORE doesn’t put the fight against climate change on top of his to-do list, he will run into trouble with progressive members of his own party like Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators ask airlines to offer cash refunds for unused flight credits Civilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide Senate votes to nix Trump rule limiting methane regulation MORE (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), who have championed the Green New Deal. 

The death and disease created by COVID-19 have intensified the need for a complete overhaul of the nation’s health care system. The pandemic and the subsequent economic carnage have crowded other issues like the toxic racial climate, a broken health care system and the violent gun culture off the stage but the new president must deal with them anyway.

Biden will need to actively confront several major problems when most presidents are lucky to mount one serious initiative during the first year of his presidency. There will be big institutional obstacles that could tie Biden’s hands even as the United States faces crises of epic proportions.

Currently, Republicans have a two-seat advantage in the U.S. Senate. All eyes turn to Georgia where there will be two runoff elections for the upper chamber in January. Unless Democrats sweep the double header in the Peach Tree State, Biden will have to grapple with a Senate controlled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Romney: Removing Cheney from House leadership will cost GOP election votes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections MORE (R-Ky.). 

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If Biden is successful pushing significant legislation through Congress, the Supreme Court conservative majority, aided by the elevation of Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettCourt watchers buzz about Breyer's possible retirement Five hot-button issues Biden didn't mention in his address to Congress Conservative justices split in ruling for immigrant fighting deportation MORE, could wipe out significant legislative victories. Biden could win a fight to extend the reach of the Affordable Care Act to millions of more Americans only to see the high court abolish the whole program. Any attempt by the high court to curtail a women’s right to choose by nullifying Roe v. Wade would put abortion on top of Biden’s crowded issue agenda and place pressure from him to increase the number of justices.

Biden will have his work cut out for him. He has major problems to solve immediately and several other problems that he needs to address quickly. Biden can reverse some of the damage easily with executive orders. But if he wants to move the country forward, he will need to engage with Congress in long and drawn out legislative battles. 

Millions of Americans breathed a collective sigh of relief last week when it became clear that Trump was on his way out. Biden’s victory means our long national nightmare is over. But Americans will wake up with a hangover when they begin to appreciate the serious problems that lie ahead for the nation and the new president. 

Despite all the problems and obstacles, a Biden presidency gives the nation a chance to move forward after four years of regression under Donald Trump.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon