Joe Biden is the President of the United States of America. The time came and the conspiracy theories that talked about blackouts, civil war or a surprising plan by Trump to stay in the White House and defeat the deep state turned out to be just that, simple conspiracy delusions. The “Kraken” was not finally released, and if it was, it drowned swimming upstream in the depths of the Potomac.
A new era is now beginning, marked by an electoral result that gives Biden a margin for maneuver similar to that which Barack Obama had in his first two years in government. However, today Joe entered the White House with a much more complicated panorama than the one he had found 12 years ago when he accompanied Obama as vice president. It’s not just the economic crisis, the pandemic, or Trump supporters but the very composition of the political alliance that brought him to the presidency.
Stuck between two extremes
The entire inauguration was designed to give an image of a return to normality, including the presence of former President Bush, the applause for Mike Pence, the religious references in the new president’s inaugural speech. It would seem that, for the establishment, the last four years have been a bad dream from which they now wake up to restart things more or less where they left off with Obama.
And yet, at the bottom of the steps of the Capitol, it was very clear that we are not in a normal situation: The euphoric crowds of every four years were replaced by the silence of the flags on the National Mall, and the streets were covered with more than 25,000 soldiers, in view of the possibility of terrorist acts or perhaps just the need to send a message of force after the ridicule in which the government was left with the irruption of the Capitol, which occurred just a couple of weeks ago, on January 6.
The ceremony was at the crossroads of the normal and the revolutionary, and Biden is at that very crossroads. On the one hand, the structure of his party, the liberals and even the more moderate part of it, expect from him a return to the normal forms of Washington; but on the other side of his own political alliance, the radical left, the progressives, and the socialists demand a profound transformation of society and a drastic revenge against the conservatives.
Biden advocates normality
In his first message as president, Biden sought to balance his political alliance’s varied expectations. Still, in general terms, he pointed to the path of normalcy rather than that of revolution. His message, about 2,519 words, focused on the idea that there is “much to repair, much to restore, much to heal, much to build, and much to gain.”
Let’s look at some highlights:
- He echoed progressives by speaking of “racial injustice” and specifically mentioned political extremism, white supremacy, and domestic terrorism “that must be confronted and defeated.” Still, he did not pose a message of polarization, but rather maintained the emphasis on unity, which he has insisted on since his electoral victory and which he called necessary to “restore the soul and secure the future of America.”
- He insisted that “we must not see ourselves as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect …. stop shouting and lower the temperature,” for which it is necessary “to listen to each other, to see each other, to show each other respect” because “not every disagreement should be the cause of an all-out war.”
- He quoted St. Augustine to point out that the people are a multitude defined by the shared objects of their love and explained that for the American people, “those common objects are opportunities, security, dignity, respect, honor, and truth.”
- He called on people to show tolerance and humility and an end to the war of incivility that confronts “red against blue, rural against urban, conservative against liberal.”
Easier said than done
Biden’s speech was good and beautiful, although it won’t do any good unless it is translated into concrete actions.
The President is absolutely right when he speaks of the need to overcome the conflict between reds and blues, urban and rural, etc., but he must not forget that that conflict has been fed and inspired for decades by his own allies, who now even speak of blacklists or re-education camps for Trump supporters, while disdain for traditional America seeps like a pestilence through the pores of the discourse of progressives.
If Biden is serious about prioritizing unity through dialogue, he would have to start sending signals from his own sphere and risk tearing apart the networks of his political group. This would imply an enormous challenge for his presidency, but also the possibility of achieving the détente and serenity that they urge on America.
Should Biden opt for revolution and hand control of his administration over to the radicals, his legacy will not be one of unity, but one of deepening polarization and keeping the republic two steps from the abyss of violence, that which (not today and not tomorrow, but in the medium term) directly threatens the survival of the American republic.