WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden defined his history mission as bringing together a divided country and made “unity” the catchphrase of his young administration. But one thing that divides America is what unity actually means.
In his inaugural address on Wednesday and at other public appearances, Biden turned to Republicans with messages of reconciliation and vowed to work together to address the nation’s enormous challenges – a tone entirely different from what President Donald Trump is usually used to. But at least in Biden’s opening times, public relations were more about words and symbols than about concrete actions.
He did not appoint opposition party members to his cabinet like Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama did, and many of the executive orders he signed in his first two days in office were aimed at reversing Trump’s policies and Realize liberal ideas, find no common ground. He did not give examples of Republican priorities that he wanted to adopt in the interests of bipartisan cooperation, nor described what compromises would be acceptable in order to get Congress approval for his initiatives.
However, Biden and his allies argue that unity means something other than concession – rather a change in culture without dividing up the difference in political plans. After a presidency that salted up the wounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and culture and then tried to overthrow a democratic election that led to a mob attack on the Capitol, unity can be a renewed commitment to America’s broadest values mean. The two sides will still have fierce ideas battles, that argument goes, but they should be debates about goodwill rather than search-and-destroy operations.
“Ultimately, greater unity requires a broader agreement on the value of government itself. That is exactly why Biden emphasizes competent government action as the key to recovery from the pandemic and economic crisis,” said Paul Bledsoe, former Senate and White House employee of Clinton is now at the Progressive Policy Institute.
Biden was long an apostle of non-partisanship, cultivating close friendships across the aisle for 36 years in the Senate and eight years as Vice President. However, the incentive structures have changed. Where politicians used to see a political reward for at least bipartisan behavior, they now see the risk of being sold out by the more passionate elements of their own party. Compromise is seen by many as a vice rather than a virtue.
The lightning bolts of the bipartisan comity shown on the day of inauguration subsided quickly the next day. Senate Democrats and Republicans on Thursday debated the rules for administering their evenly-divided chamber for the next two years, as well as the trial against Trump, who was charged with inciting a riot. Republicans complained that the new president’s immigration, economic and environmental agenda through executive action and legislative proposals was not a gesture toward them.
“Biden had good unity news,” wrote Alyssa Farah, Trump’s last communications director at the White House before breaking up with him after the mob attack on the Capitol, on Twitter, “but the guidelines so far are only aimed at that half the country. ” , those who supported him with no evidence of contact with those who did not. “
At the same time, Biden will also come under pressure from across the spectrum. Liberals in his own party will oppose any action that appears to undercut the policies they favor from what they believe to be a misguided idea of working with Republicans.
“For me, Biden can be most united if he continues to push these bold populist policies that put money in people’s pockets, make people feel like they have another chance and have been freed from this virus,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal. D-Wash., Chairman of Progressive Congress, said in an interview. “He has to focus on that. We cannot allow the idea of compromise for the sake of compromise to eliminate the need to really produce results that people can see. “
The pending impeachment trial against Trump has quickly turned into a lightning rod in the early days of Biden’s presidency, portrayed by that section of the Republican Party that still supports the former president as an act of retaliation that denies the paper-thin language of unity .
“I have to tell you, it is hard to unite when they indict a president who is no longer in office,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of Trump’s strongest Republican defenders, in an interview. “It’s hard to unite when the demolition culture means we’re unable to make our arguments.”
Trump’s defense lawyers said Biden should phone Congress Democrats and tell them to back off. “His refusal to do this shows me that he really does not have the ability or willingness to unite us because that would be a layup,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., told Fox News.
Democrats ridiculed this proposal and maintaining that unity does not mean that accountability should be sacrificed. A group of Democratic Senators filed a complaint with the Ethics Committee Thursday against two Republican allies of Trump, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri, accusing them of upholding the mob by challenging the college election for Biden.
“I don’t really agree to say, ‘Let’s just forget about it and move on. ‘That’s not how you unite,’ House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi told reporters. “You are not saying to a president, ‘Do what you want in the last few months of your administration. You get a free card to get out of jail because people think we should be nice and forget that people here died on January 6th. ‘”
Trying to circumvent the impeachment problem, Biden on Thursday focused on taking action to combat the coronavirus pandemic that has already cost more than 400,000 lives in the United States, making this a common goal. “We can do this when we get together,” he said. “Therefore our plan is ultimately based on unity and we all act as one nation.”
New White House press secretary Jen Psaki later dismissed the notion that Biden’s inaugural initiatives had failed to deliver on his promise of unity, arguing that unemployment insurance, reopening schools, and accelerating vaccine distribution were not partisan issues. She added that Biden’s obligation is to listen to Republicans and take them seriously, not necessarily to agree with them on every point.
“They will say that they are not looking for anything symbolic,” said Psaki. “They want to get engaged, they want to have a conversation, they want to have a dialogue and that’s exactly what he’s going to do.”
Republicans complained that there was no dialogue before Biden unveiled his proposed immigration legislation to provide a route to citizenship for 11 million people living in the country illegally while stopping many deportations and suspending the construction of Trump’s border wall . Courtesy, they said, was not the same as unity.
“Bipartisan is not a sound. That’s politics, ”said Josh Holmes, a Republican strategist and former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader. “And I think he figured out the tone. But that’s not a unit. If you do radically partisan things, unity is not sure to follow. “
The Democrats scoffed at Republicans’ nagging about what they believed to be an extensive track record of obstructionism at McConnell, claiming that it would be Republicans too to meet Biden halfway. In addition, the unit does not require a unilateral delivery of the promises that Biden made during the election campaign.
“If you work with him, he will work with you,” said John D. Podesta, former Clinton White House chief of staff and advisor to Obama. “But that doesn’t mean you have to throw away your core program. And when he says, “I think you’ve gone too far to cut taxes on the rich,” and they say, “Well, that means you don’t take unity seriously,” that’s just a joke. “
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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