Biden Sworn In Amid Crises: ‘Unity & Healing’ May Be A Far Cry
“Biden faces an uphill road: over 0.4 mil COVID deaths, an economy in doldrums, rising White nationalism, etc.”
The United States conducted a peaceful transfer of power with Joe R Biden sworn in as the 46th President on the very steps of the Capitol where two weeks ago the 45th President Donald Trump had incited an insurrection.
That such a routine motion of democracy as the passing of the baton should be noted says something about today’s America, but events of 6 January — when thousands of Trump extremists invaded the Capitol on a murderous spree in a bid to overturn Biden’s victory — warrant the event be noted. On that day the world watched in horror, wondering how it would all end.
Kamala Harris Makes History; ‘Chithi Brigade’ Awaits
On this bracing Wednesday, it ended as it should with Biden taking the oath of office in time-honored tradition and three former presidents in attendance but Trump pointedly missing from the dais — his last official act of petulance.
The trauma of 6 January also ended with history being made and Kamala Devi Harris, the first woman and the first person of colour, becoming vice president of the country.
Business like, the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, Harris carried the weight lightly in her purple coat and leather gloves.
A ‘chithi brigade’ of Indian American aunties in California is reportedly forming to support Harris as she moves into the vice presidential mansion in Washington.
Trump was particularly peeved that a dark-skinned woman made Biden’s cut for VP and won the election instead of Americans waiting for his blonde daughter Ivanka.
‘Time To Set Aside Politics’
It should also be noted that the 2021 transfer of power had to be protected and safeguarded from domestic terrorists by more than 25,000 national guards pulled from all corners of the country. Instead of citizens, thousands of flags covered the Mall. Still, the socially distanced and pared down ceremony had elements of pomp and celebrity.
Biden, an emotional and religious man, appealed non-stop for unity in his inaugural address after Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez had warmed the sparse gathering with powerful renditions of the US national anthem, and the classics, ‘This Land is Your Land’ and ‘America the Beautiful’.
The new president asked the country’s “competing factions” to end “this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservatives versus liberal.” He said the country was entering what may be the “toughest and deadliest” period of the virus and it was time to set aside politics and “finally face this pandemic as one nation.”
America’s Sheen Is Off
Biden himself faces a long, uphill road blocked by a cascade of crises — more than 400,000 have died of COVID-19, the vaccine rollout is patchy and hap-hazard, the economy is in doldrums, Trump’s half of America is seething because it believes the election was “stolen”, and conspiracy theorists and White nationalists rule the dark web.
America’s sheen is off and the world increasingly questions whether the US can rebuild and reenter the realm of the real.
Biden said he understands the enormity of the problems. He plunged into action within minutes of entering the Oval Office, signing 15 executive orders, memoranda and directives. The Biden blitz covered pandemic relief, immigration, climate change, student loans, a moratorium on evictions, racial equity and multilateral agreements.
Biden Reverses Some Controversial Trump Policies
He reversed some of the most controversial of Trump’s policies, including the so-called “Muslim ban”, freezing funds for the border wall and ordering mandatory wearing of masks on federal property. He will also rejoin the Paris climate agreement, the World Health Organization and send an immigration bill to the US Congress to provide relief to children of illegal immigrants.
Republicans and conservatives screamed back: This is not ‘unity’ but a recipe for more divisiveness. The frontal assault on Trump’s legacy within hours of Biden taking office shocked Fox News anchors and angered Republican senators.
But it was revenge politics that the US has drifted towards since Barack Obama who didn’t get any support for his agenda from Republicans.
Bipartisanship has been on its deathbed since then. Democrats gave it back during Trump’s four years, starting with the mantra, “not my president,” investigation upon investigation and ending with the second impeachment. The tradition of “non-cooperation” seems to be settling in.
Why Things Won’t Be Easy For Biden Or Congressional Democrats
What Biden can achieve from executive orders is well and good but where he needs the US Congress, the doors have already begun shutting. The Republicans — 130 in the House and who voted to dispute Biden’s electoral college victory — are not in a mood to compromise, and the Democratic majority is slim. The Senate is split 50-50 with Harris casting a tie-breaking vote.
Things won’t be easy for Biden or for Congressional Democrats. Trump may be at his resort in Florida but he still rules rank-and-file Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Only a few brave Republicans — some call them foolish — have come out in public against the former president even after the violent sacking of the Capitol.
Senator Mitch McConnell, on his last day as Senate majority leader, did turn against Trump, blaming him for provoking the mob to attack the Capitol. But he enabled Trump for four years. If he votes to convict Trump in the Senate trial that is expected to start soon, McConnell will have done some good because it would encourage others to do the same. A conviction would bar Trump from holding office again.
Mid-Term Congressional Polls 2022: The Threat Is Real
Trump loyalists see red when faced with the prospect and consider it “treason” against their leader. More importantly, their political fortunes depend on the one-term, twice-impeached president. Trump has openly threatened revenge and political death of those who go against his wishes.
Mid-term Congressional elections are in 2022 and the threat is real because the Republican base bows at the altar of Trump.
What this means is opposition to Biden’s agenda and continued divisiveness — not unity and healing.
(The writer is a senior Washington-based journalist. She can be reached at @seemasirohi. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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