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“This is the time to heal in America”. President-elect Joe Biden’s words were directed at a nation suffering after four years of Donald Trump’s dishonesty and fear-mongering. Mr Biden understands Trumpism is arsenic in the water supply of American political culture. It has sloshed around the country, flowing most freely wherever Republicans were in power. Even after the president had clearly lost the popular vote, his Republican enablers embraced his claims about a stolen election rather than denouncing them.
Yet Mr Biden wants America to come together not come apart. There is nothing to gain from trading incivilities with Republican opponents. He seeks to bridge divides. Under Mr Trump, the US has become more polarised between educated and less-educated voters; whites and people of colour; haves and have-nots; and urban and rural areas. Mr Biden is right: politics can’t be conducted in a furnace, it’s time to “lower the temperature”.
In his words Americans must “see each other again [and] listen to each other again”. There’s too much at stake to do otherwise. The US faces a triple crisis: a pandemic that is costing hundreds of lives daily; an economic depression with skyrocketing long-term unemployment; and a politics where consensus is sorely lacking but badly needed. These are interrelated emergencies. Covid cannot be solved without a faith in facts, which is why Mr Biden will set up an expert pandemic taskforce ahead of naming his cabinet. His emphasis on science is in contrast to widespread Republican disdain for evidence.
The country’s economy can only be revived by federal spending to keep companies and households afloat while upscaling the test-and-trace regime. Thanks to the US’s skewed electoral system Republicans may find themselves in a position to frustrate a president Biden. Some want to bite the hand of friendship that he has extended. This would be a bad idea. Republicans who shrank the government to the size “it can be drowned in the bathtub” can see when you do so people die. Those who pushed profit-driven opinion ahead of scientific fact ought to realise that conservative ideology won’t cure coronavirus.
Without a vaccine, what is needed is money from Congress and politicians willing to persuade people to change their behaviour. Super-spreading lies about the economy and the virus has deadly consequences. A public reared in an age of government distrust led to a revolt against mask-wearing and social distancing. Mr Biden is asking Republicans to stop peddling fact-free assertions about liberties being lost for the sake of public health. They should listen to him.
The trained cynicism about government needs to be unwound. Mr Biden’s argument is that if Americans cannot share a common narrative about how to handle Covid then the government cannot produce a successful solution. He is right. Republicans must break Mr Trump’s spell over their party. Left unchecked the Grand Old Party risks reducing itself to a cult beholden to an ageing leader’s bizarre conspiracy theories.
The American dream does not exist for many people. How to manage this pain is central to Mr Biden’s healing touch. The president-elect seems ready to offer compassion and help to those whose suffering Mr Trump dismissed as fraudulent. Mr Biden wants Americans to feel empowered by believing in something larger than themselves. He would like elected leaders to take, rather than abdicate, responsibility for public duties. If the 2020 election was a referendum on the Trump years, the pandemic provides a test of conservative principles. Mr Biden aims to restore trust in government, and in the US itself. Republicans should do their bit to help.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The Guardian view on Joe Biden: cometh the hour, cometh the man | Joe Biden