|New administration, troubling times
The deadly coronavirus pandemic that dominated the final year of Trump’s
presidency will be just as dominant during the first year of the Biden
On Jan. 20, Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United
States in a socially distanced ceremony at the nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C.
While there is always a good deal of uncertainty any time a new administration
enters the White House, this will be unusual in that it will, to some extent, represent
something of a return to a traditional presidency after four years of the
unconventional leadership of President Donald J. Trump.
But unlike the inauguration in 2017, when the economy was on a roll and life
seemed relatively normal, today’s world is anything but. The economy is in tatters,
the nation’s divisions seem more pronounced, civil discourse is all but forgotten, and
a raging pandemic continues to take lives and batter the peace of mind of all
Despite the notable differences in the policies of Trump and Biden, from climate
change to relationships with allies and from a border wall to healthcare, all of those
issues promise to be overshadowed in the immediate future by efforts to control the
virus. It may well set the tone for the entire Biden presidency, as it did with the final
months of the Trump presidency.
It could be argued that, prior to the pandemic, Trump might have been on his way to
a second term. Despite concerns about Trump’s personality, the economy was
moving along nicely - a continuation of a recovery going back to the previous
In early 2019 the economy was one of Trump’s strongest arguments for continuing
as the nation’s president. But as with much of life, it is the unforeseen that can
change the trajectory.
When COVID-19 made its way to the United States, it began to spread, slowly at
first then picking up speed. The spread started to dominate the news cycles, with
infections, hospitalizations deaths charted daily. As the year drew to a close, the
virus had claimed in excess of 300,000 American lives.
But the personal losses go beyond illness and death. The virus hobbled the
economy, forcing business large and small to shut down or scale back with extreme
precautionary measures that hurt their bottom line. Entrepreneurs lost businesses,
people lost jobs, and the emotional toll has been significant as families were forced to
keep their distance.
Interestingly, the virus to some extent has highlighted some of the divisiveness in
this country. Safety measures, from wearing masks to social distancing, have
become politicized. Even the long-awaited vaccine is seen by some as suspect in a
world where conspiracy beliefs have entered the mainstream.
Biden has made it clear that he believes the first step in helping the economy
recover is to control the pandemic. He plans to ask Americans to mask up for the first
100 days of his administration as one way to help avoid shutdowns.
The impact of the pandemic is illustrated in two issues of the Gulf Coast Aerospace
Corridor Newsletter. In February there were stories about the continuing growth of
the Airbus campus in Mobile, as well as the growth of Pensacola International Airport
Two months later, the change was dramatic. The April issue’s cover story was an
editorial about the pandemic. It noted that the streets of major cities were empty,
businesses closed and hospitals were being pushed to the brink. At that point there
were 23,000 deaths in the U.S. and 120,000 worldwide.
The April issue had an article about the virus leaving the aerospace industry
reeling. Indeed, the airport that had been setting records two months earlier saw its
business down 90 percent.
Stories that had been planned, at least one that had already been researched and
written, were shelved because the pandemic had changed plans. Throughout 2020
articles with a coronavirus connection could be found in most issues.
While the Trump administration could not be blamed for the pandemic, how the
administration dealt with it had a major impact on the economy. Right or wrong,
presidents are deemed responsible for what happens on their watch, both the good
and the bad.
When Trump was sworn in four years ago, it marked the first time in modern history
that a businessman with no political experience was chosen to lead the country. The
wealthy former reality show host promised to shake up the way things were done in
Beyond that, his stated goals of rebuilding the nation’s military and focusing on
defense was encouraging for this region, home to 18 military bases, most of them
aviation focused, and thousands of defense contractors big and small.
In the November election, all four states with a piece of the I-10 aerospace corridor
gave Trump their combined 52 electoral votes, giving him a total of 232. Despite
complaints by Trump that the election was rigged, Biden won 306 of the 538 electors
when the Electoral College voted Dec. 14. The votes will be counted by Congress
Jan. 6. While objections may be raised by some Trump supporters, nothing will
change and Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in Jan. 20.
Because of the pandemic, the 59th inauguration will make safety a priority. It will not
have the traditional large crowds, either for the inauguration itself or the parade that
On the following pages we take a look at what the Biden administration may mean
for the military and defense, a key area of interest for the Gulf Coast (pages 5-6).
We also take a look at what the Biden administration may mean for space activities
(pages 3-4), also important to the region, which hosts two NASA operations and
activities of commercial space companies.
Finally, we look at what the new administration might mean for Airbus, the operation
that made Mobile a high-profile player in international aviation (pages 7-8).
But as history shows, despite expectations, there will be events unforeseen that will
impact the upcoming administration.
The one certainty is uncertainty.
- David Tortorano