'Democracy Has Prevailed'
Updated: Feb 3
And so it begins.
President Joe Biden kicked off a new era of American history Wednesday afternoon with an inaugural address that called for unity, hope and an end to the destructive division and poisonous prevarications that have shaken this country to its core.
It was a critically acclaimed 21-minute speech, quickly followed by a series of executive orders and actions that will start the long process of undoing Donald Trump’s damage. The United States is back in the World Health Organization, we have returned to the Paris climate accord, the racist Muslim travel ban is over, and construction of the useless border wall has been halted.
Not a bad first day, but there is a long, long way to go.
In the short term, the new president is faced with the reality of dealing with the staggering wreckage his incompetent predecessor has left behind. Joe Biden takes office amidst a viral pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans in less than a year, and he must immediately fix a haphazard and poorly planned vaccine rollout that has fallen far short of expectations.
He must deal with an intransigent opposition party that unsuccessfully attempted to illegally invalidate his electoral win. And, finally, he must confront a new domestic terror threat from his defeated opponent’s delusional supporters. Those men and women, who ransacked and desecrated the U.S. Capitol just two weeks ago, are the reason Wednesday’s festivities took place behind barbed wire and were surrounded by tens of thousands of military personnel.
What’s reassuring is this isn’t the first time Joe Biden has stepped into the executive branch of government with the nation facing a crisis. In 2009, he and Barack Obama took over in the middle of an economic calamity. Their swift, bold action 12 years ago prevented a second coming of the Great Depression and set the nation up for years of economic expansion.
What remains to be seen is whether Biden’s drive to unify the nation and bring bipartisanship back to a bitterly divided Congress can be successful. Given the last two decades of division, the cynical among us see this as pure naiveté on the new president’s part.
But Biden certainly struck the right tone during his first speech. Unity was the prevailing theme he repeatedly returned to, as three of five living former presidents -- Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- looked on.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal,” Biden said. “We can do this if we open our souls, instead of hardening our hearts; if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes.”
Throughout the first day of the Biden administration, Americans saw a drastic difference in how the country will be run. Sanity in government instantly replaced insanity, as if someone flipped a magic switch.
New Press Secretary Jen Psaki held a briefing in which she delivered facts, told the truth and treated journalists with respect. Biden wore a mask in the Oval Office, as he signed his first 17 executive orders and actions. Then, as he virtually swore in a large group of political appointees, the new president warned that he would fire anyone, “on the spot,” who treats their colleagues disrespectfully.
Many Americans feared this day would never come. Many believed Donald Trump would refuse to relinquish power. The disgraced now-former president did all he could to rig the election in his favor, going as far as sabotaging the Post Office, and then desperately tried to overturn the result for two months when it didn’t go his way.
On Wednesday, two weeks after insurrectionists stormed the legislative seat of government in a failed attempt to reinstall a soundly defeated Trump, our democratic institutions stood firm.
“The will of the people has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded,” Biden said. “We’ve learned, again, that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile, and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.” Indeed it has.