By Bob Gatty
A new day filled with hope has arrived, and we have a new Democratic administration, one that promises competence, honesty, empathy and hope as our nation confronts the twin pandemics of Covid-19 and divisiveness and distrust.
Now, President Joseph R. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have a historic opportunity to heal and bring hope for a brighter future for every American as they focus on the key challenges that face us today.
“This was an emphatic message of unity from President Biden,” said HCDP Chair Don Kohn. “With Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman to hold national office and the second administration with an African American at the top, peace in Washington DC gives us a new day in America. Thank God.”
Kohn noted that Covid-19 already has claimed 402,000 lives, “many of them tragically caused by the irresponsible actions of Donald Trump.”
Now, he pointed out, the Biden administration must tackle that challenge and get vaccines into peoples’ arms as quickly and efficiently as is humanly possible while also dealing with the economic crisis caused by that pandemic.
The second pandemic, that of hate, fear, and racial division, may prove to be an equally serious threat and even more difficult to overcome, he said.
HCDP First Vice Chair Barbara Hake commented “Finally tears of joy!! Even Trump’s best efforts didn’t prevent the inauguration from taking place, and what a respectful, meaningful and truthful event it was. This is what Americans look like and should act like. Reaching out to others – to all – encouraging participation, acknowledging the pain of 400k deaths due to the pandemic; rejoining the other peaceful nations of the world once again to promote peace, healthcare worldwide and the environment”.
Hake continued by saying “It is what and who we need at this moment in our Nation. God Bless America!”
In his inaugural address, Biden pledged to meet that challenge, recognizing the threat that it poses to our democracy — as was evident in the razor wire that surrounded the Capitol for the inauguration ceremony, necessitated by continuing security threats following the January 6 Trump-incited mob attack on the people’s house.
“This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge,” Biden said. “Unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail.”
“Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path,” he said, standing on the very Capitol portico that had been overrun by domestic terrorists that day as Trump supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying the election of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
“We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile — and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” he said.
Biden issued stern warnings to extremists who seek to overrun our democracy.
“And here we stand just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground,” he said. “It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever.”
As he repeatedly has done, Biden promised to be the president of all the people, not just those who supported him.
Acknowledging that many Americans view the future with fear and trepidation, Biden said, “the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes…”
Bringing that promised unity means he must confront the reality of those millions of Americans who still believe Trump’s lies that the election was rigged and stolen from him, and who still support Trump’s views of White supremacy, of “us against them.”
Such a view was expressed today in an email from a Trump supporter that was sent even as Biden spoke from the Capitol’s portico, calling for unity. It was sent to Kohn who had responded to an earlier email in which the man claimed the election had been stolen. Kohn noted that 60 court cases had been rejected, including some by Trump-appointed judges, and told the man that if he had any additional evidence, he should provide it to the authorities.
“Why don’t you kiss my TRUMP loyalist A–!!! You socialist hack wack.” the man wrote.
No doubt that is a mild version of the sentiments held by many of those who still back Trump, even as he is now a private citizen living in luxury in his private South Florida resort. But it’s indicative of thet pandemic of hate and division that persists and that Biden must confront.
While Biden confronts all of that, many other challenges await the new administration.
In addition to the pandemic and its devastating economic and social impact, Biden has pledged to address climate change and racial justice — illustrated in 2020 with huge climate-propelled fires in California and unrest over police violence resulting from the deaths of Black victims, including George Floyd and Brionna Taylor.
There is the immigration crisis that faces the nation largely because of Trump’s vicious and hateful actions designed to play into the fears and prejudices of his base of supporters. And there is the need to restore international respect for America, badly damaged by Trump’s “America First” policies.
Already, he’s proposed a $1.9 trillion package of economic stimulus and pandemic relief, and even today planned to sign numerous executive orders to undue many of Trump’s most harmful actions.
They include rescinding the travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries, rejoining the Paris climate change accord and World Health Organization, extending pandemic-related limits on evictions and student loan payments, issuing a mask mandate for federal property and interstate travel and ordering agencies to reunite children separated from families after crossing the border.
They also include halting construction of Trump’s border wall, embracing progressive polices on the environment and diversity that Trump blocked, and installing a coronavirus response coordinator to oversee the administration’s efforts to distribute vaccine and medical supplies.
Can Biden succeed with important initiatives that require legislative action by Congress, like the coronavirus relief initiative? Much depends upon whether this former senator can work with Republican leaders to avoid blockages caused by the filibuster, which means 60 votes are required for passage.
That may be difficult to achieve. But there is hope.
Today, instead of going to a Maryland airfield for an early morning ceremony for Trump as he left for Florida in defeat, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other leading GOP legislators joined Biden for mass prior to the inauguration ceremony.
Perhaps that signifies a new mood in Washington, one that can result in positive action that will benefit the American people, and in the doing, help ease the divisions that currently afflict the nation.
“Let’s hope that is the case,” said Kohn. “I hope Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott will work with Biden and not simply be obstructionists in hopes of political gain. We’ve seen what that approach can do to our nation. Graham called for unity the other day. Let’s see if he means it.”