From Dr. Anthony Fauci’s gleeful press briefing to the proliferation of memes of a bundled Bernie Sanders and his knitted mittens, the inauguration of President Joe Biden last week has ignited a sense of relief and hope across the country. While the inauguration lacked the traditional grandeur of large adoring crowds and celebratory galas, the proceedings were serious and meaningful, and remarkably inspiring. The message was clear: We are in this great American adventure together, and together we stand the best chance of rebuilding our torn and pandemic-stricken country.
For most of the more than 81 million Americans who voted for Biden, and for many who didn’t, the 46th president’s inaugural address was masterful. Biden is empathetic, streetwise, impassioned and prepared. No Sleepy Joe, he spoke directly from the heart in plain and emotional terms and promised to be the president for all Americans.
He reminded us that things we have taken for granted have been tested. “We have learned again that democracy is precious,” he said. “Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
In his call for unity, Biden asked those who voted against him to “take a measure of me and my heart,” a modest, almost old-fashioned expression. “And if you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably, within the guardrails of our Republic, is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength.”
“Yet hear me clearly,” he continued. “Disagreement must not lead to disunion.” He called for an end to our “uncivil war.”
Biden unquestionably has a full plate of challenges to address: He is developing plans to deal with the pandemic, unemployment, shuttered businesses, endemic racism, a growing wealth gap, climate change and a soaring national debt. And that’s to say nothing of the multitude of international issues he needs to grapple with.
Biden’s plans to rebuild and remake America will come at a significant financial cost. While there may not be time now to figure out exactly how to pay those costs, the facile “plan” to increase taxes on corporate America and the wealthy is not a complete answer. Moreover, if we are really “all in this together,” it follows that the cost of resolution will ultimately have to be shared by all of us, as well.
This issue presents an opportunity for Republicans to accept the president’s invitation to enact bipartisan legislation, focused on the programs and activities that are essential for recovery, and for Democrats to delay consideration of party wish lists and to avoid divisive political maneuverings.
That’s the “unity” America needs now. And this is an opportunity for the president and his team to live up to their promise of bipartisan governance for the benefit of all Americans. That kind of presidential leadership will truly show us the dawn of a new day, and will make major strides toward implementation of the healing dream of which Biden spoke so eloquently.