Doug Schoen: Biden inaugural message mostly hopeful, unifying – but these harsh realities await
Henninger: Will Biden’s ‘two inaugural speeches’ reconcile nation?
Wall Street Journal deputy editor questions whether president’s address was designed to reach Trump supporters
Joe Biden delivered his inaugural address as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday.
In recognition of the mood of the country and the gravity of the moment, President Biden spoke of how “few people in our nation’s history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we’re in now.”
Generally, the speech was inclusive, hopeful and empathetic. Biden also underscored the need for unity to solve our most urgent problems – a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial inequities, and instability on the world stage – and he made broad references to the need to reject polarization and political divisiveness.
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“For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward,” Biden said.
In many ways, the newly inaugurated president’s speech was one that all Americans who have felt disillusioned by the political partisanship of recent years could be pleased to hear.
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“We must end this uncivil war, that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal. We can do this, if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts,” he said.
Yet, at the same time, the deep political polarization that recent events have exposed – and arguably exacerbated – may make achieving the overarching objectives that Biden spoke of difficult to achieve in all, and truth be told, in part.
The riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, which led to a second impeachment of Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection, will almost certainly produce a political backlash that will continue well into Biden’s first term, and may make his elusive goal of “unity” even more difficult to achieve.
Now, with Democrats maintaining narrow control of both houses of Congress, Biden, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will have a responsibility to govern in a bipartisan way, and to reach out to Republicans in order to solve our most pressing challenges.
However, it remains to be seen if Republicans on the right representing Trumpism – without Donald Trump – and the Democratic left led by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and members of the “Squad,” will allow Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to fulfill the promise of compromise and conciliation this new administration offers the American people.
We need to, as Biden said, “join forces,” “stop shouting,” “lower the temperature.”
To that end, while Biden’s speech was overall optimistic, he also denounced his predecessor without mentioning Trump by name. In many ways, Biden’s veiled attacks on Trump were indicative of how Biden will govern: as Trump’s antithesis.
Biden said the U.S. “will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again,” vowing a change from the isolationist policies of the Trump administration.
Biden also criticized “the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated, and even manufactured,” making a roundabout attack on Trump’s propensity to be dishonest.
Further, before Inauguration Day came to a close, Biden was expected to take several immediate executive actions to reverse Trump’s policies.
Among other expected actions, Biden will sign orders to require masks on all federal grounds, and will reverse the Trump administration’s rollbacks of carbon emissions standards. Biden will also repeal the ban on travel from several majority-Muslim countries, and reverse the Trump administration’s exclusion of noncitizens from the U.S. census.
In addition, with regard to international action, the Biden administration is expected to begin the reversal of the U.S.’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization.
Ultimately, though Biden’s speech was in many ways forward-looking and unifying, his address also underscored just how deeply divided we are as a nation.
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So, while we as Americans have reason to be hopeful in light of Biden’s address Wednesday, we also must recognize that a change in the presidential administration will not fix America’s problems.
We need to, as Biden said, “join forces,” “stop shouting,” “lower the temperature,” and “begin to listen to one another again” in order to achieve the change we seek.
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