Thursday, January 21, 2021

The Unity Challenge Biden Faces

In homes like mine across America, perhaps even the world, Wednesday night was a time of exultation primed by relief that four years of despair had ended earlier that day at noon.


Joe Biden is now president of the United States. But almost half the nation believes he is an imposter. A usurper. He is not the man they believe won the election. 


They believe that falsehood, despite repeated decisions by courts in numerous states that election results were legal, that votes for Biden were legally cast. They believe that lie, even after a Republican administration in Washington attested that the November 3 election was the most fraud-free of any in our history. 


Imagine how they processed Wednesday’s pageantry. Will they welcome Biden’s call for unity, his plea to end an “uncivil war” between red and blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal? Biden declared war on political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism. He vowed to defend the truth, defeat the lies.


Keep in mind, the president of the naysayers and his enablers lied to them. Not some inconsequential fib like the size of an inauguration crowd. No, this lie cut right to their belief in the validity of their government.


Politicians lie. Before and after they achieve their ultimate goal—election, then reelection. Presidents are no different. Presidents lie. All presidents do. Johnson and Nixon lied about Vietnam. Reagan lied about Iran Contra. Bush II lied about Iraq.


Even after their lies have been exposed many supporters refuse to abandon allegiance to their president. Call it blind patriotism or idiocy, it is a fact of life.


Biden will have to somehow pierce their armor of infallibility without damaging their capacity to transition to a new reality.


But even as some movement back to reality has begun—after four years of being unfaithful to the truth Mitch McConnell on the floor of the Senate said, “The mob (that attacked the Capitol) was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” while under threat of a lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems right wing media have retracted claims the company’s voting machines compromised election results—Biden’s wish list faces seemingly insurmountable odds of success.


The cancer of falsehoods has already metastasized. In an effort to minimize viewership losses to more extreme networks, Fox News is doubling down on disdain for anything and anyone Democratic. Wednesday night Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity spewed innuendo and lies to an audience susceptible to manipulation (https://mol.im/a/9170857).


Few presidents enter the Oval Office with an overwhelming mandate. Biden’s margin of victory in the Electoral College matched that of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton four years ago. In the popular vote tally, Trump outdid his 2016 performance. He garnered 74.2 million votes, more than any other sitting president, 11.2 million more than he did in 2016. But as in 2016, Trump polled fewer votes than his Democratic opponent. More than 81.3 million chose Biden.


Unlike previous elections, the loser and many of his followers have not accepted defeat. Wednesday night in their homes was not devoted to celebration.


The great divide is a chasm Biden cannot be expected to bridge in a day, a week, a month, even a year. Though Biden’s inauguration was a visual celebration of diversity, the day before outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted multiculturalism.


“Wokeism, multiculturalism, all the -isms — they’re not who America is. They distort our glorious founding and what this country is all about. Our enemies stoke these divisions because they know they make us weaker,”

Pompeo tweeted. 


As long as leaders of the Trumpian Republican Party continue to profess and expound such white supremacist ideas, Biden’s hope for unity will be an unattainable dream.  

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