Biden’s inaugural message to America: ‘It’s time to grow up’
It was a call, above all else, for maturity.
More than a dozen years earlier, in 2008, Biden faced a similar reckoning of his own. After securing the Democratic presidential nomination, then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama called to offer Biden a spot on the ticket. At first the elder senator declined. “Can anyone even name Lincoln’s vice president?” he asked his aides.
But Biden’s wife, Jill, urged him to reconsider, reminding him that he “started out in politics because of civil rights.” Now he had a chance to be “a major part” of “this historic moment,” she said — to support “the first Black man ever elected to be president of the United States.”
Still Biden hesitated. In his six terms as a senator, he’d never had to answer to anyone except the voters of Delaware. He’d run for president himself. To borrow a phrase attributed to Nelson Rockefeller, he never wanted to be vice president of anything.
“How am I going to handle this?” he asked Jill.
Her reply was simple: “Grow up,” she said.
Biden’s targeting of racist extremism is being portrayed as an attack on the right itself
“If you read his speech and listen to it carefully, much of it is thinly veiled innuendo,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said during an interview on Fox News, “calling us white supremacists, calling us racists, calling us every name in the book.”
Paul also apparently objected to Biden’s saying that “there is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit.”
“Calling us people who don’t tell the truth,” Paul continued. “ ‘And going forward we’re not going to have manufactured or manipulated truth.’ That’s another way of saying ‘All of my opponents manufacture or manipulate the truth and are liars.’ ”
In that last sentence, Paul does explicitly what he did implicitly on the issue of race: conflate Biden’s constrained criticism with a broad attack on Republicans generally. Biden never specifically mentioned who was telling those lies, although the focus was obvious. He never even called out the extremism he was targeting as being right-wing. But for Paul, the implication was clear: Biden thinks Republicans are racist liars.
Probably because the Republicans in DC, at least the ones who voted to reject the election results, are racist liars.
The Coming Republican Amnesia
How will the GOP recover from the Trump era? Pretend it never happened.
As Donald Trump lurches through the disastrous final days of his presidency, Republicans are just beginning to survey the wreckage of his reign. Their party has been gutted, their leader is reviled, and after four years of excusing every presidential affront to “conservative values,” their credibility is shot. How will the GOP recover from the complicity and corruption of the Trump era? To many Republicans, the answer is simple: Pretend it never happened.
France Knows How This Ends
Polarization, anger, division—French history offers a warning for what might come after Donald Trump.
That period in France, known as the Third Republic, never resulted in any reconciliation. It turned out to be impossible to compromise with those who not only rejected the truth but also found the truth offensive, a kind of existential threat. The social divide simply grew wider and wider, to the point where bridging the gap became a futile proposition. Even the national mobilization in World War I was not enough to create a durable unity; the wounds of the past proved impossible to heal. In fact, “unity” turned out to be the wrong goal to pursue. What mattered was defending the republic’s values, a defense never made forcefully enough.
Trump Destroyed the Most Important Virtue in America
Biden can help us get it back.
We are expecting far too much of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris if we think they can fix all of the damage Donald Trump did to the republic. Presidents and vice presidents are not wizards. They cannot rewind history. They cannot single-handedly make us better people.
However, I do believe that Biden can inspire the American people to regain one of the most important virtues Trump destroyed: seriousness, our understanding that ideas, actions, and words matter.