A new president will call for ‘unity,’ but first there must be a Republican end to the Big Lie

To achieve unity, there must be accountability. Every leader of the GOP must finally offer a full-throated rejection of the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.

Joseph R. Biden becomes the 46th president today with promises to bring unity to the nation.


Joseph R. Biden will be sworn in as our country’s 46th president on this Inauguration Day. And to that, we say hallelujah.

There are signs of hope already as the Biden administration hits the ground running with an aggressive plan to fight COVID-19 through mass vaccinations and a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package to rescue small businesses, states and local governments.

But Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have a huge task before then, one that will take more than the stroke of a pen or an executive order to fix: Healing a country that has been left horribly wounded by Donald Trump, his dishonest enablers and — judging by the treasonous assault on the U.S. Capitol — far too many of his followers.

Unity, we are told, will be the theme of Biden’s keynote address on Wednesday. He will vow to do his best to bring our nation together and lead it forward, pushing past the last four years of darkness — a near half-decade of unbridled malice, lies and blunders that have cost American lives, left us further divided and made the nation an international laughingstock.

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But unity will first require accountability. And that can begin only once the Republican Party offers an honest and full-throated rejection, finally, of the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.

To say “Biden was elected” will not be enough. Too many millions of duped Americans are still hanging on the lie. It must be acknowledged that he won fair and square.

The pathway toward national healing, if it is to happen at all, begins there. And those who trafficked in that lie for pure political gain — supposed “leaders” such as Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Josh Hawley, Rep. Jim Jordan and so many others of failed integrity — must be called to account.

Consequences of the ‘Big Lie’

Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederate States of America for more than three years before he was surrounded and captured by Union troops in 1865. He was charged with treason and jailed. But he was never put on trial. And after a mere two years, he was released.

Disgraced, Davis largely retired from public view. But in 1873, in an address before the Virginia Historical Society, he had the gall to claim that the South had lost the Civil War because it was “cheated, not conquered.” He also said he never would have allowed the South to surrender had he known it would lead to Reconstruction.

This is what happens when a Big Lie goes unchecked. Davis became the darling of the myth of the Lost Cause, which fueled the notion that the South’s treason was somehow an act of valor. As a nation, we wrestle to this day with the ghosts of that untruth.

Our country finds itself in a similar spot today. Untold Americans believe an untruth — that the 2020 election was rigged — because their president told them so and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

A disturbingly wide range of GOP elected officials and party leaders aided and abetted that lie — men and women who will remain in office and power even as Trump slinks off into a strange post-presidency, hounded by lawsuits, state and federal investigations and the judgment of history.

Unity — but accountability

It is ironic that there are calls for unity — coming from Trump loyalists. It is pathetic.

“It is past time for all of us to try to heal our country and move forward,” Sen. Graham, who spent the last four years defending or looking away from Trump’s worst excesses.

And Graham is not alone in this. He is not alone in hypocritically calling for “unity” and “moving forward” after aiding and abetting a president who did nothing but pit us against each other and move the nation backward.

But the troops and barricades surrounding the U.S. Capitol today, there to safeguard us against a repeat insurrection, are visual proof that we can’t just “move forward.” Not when those responsible — Trump, of course, but also the Grahams and the Hawleys — refuse to acknowledge their lies and have yet to be held accountable.

They will not. We know that. But we’d love to see the creation of an investigative commission to bring their every sorry action to light.

If they are patriots, as they claim to be, they would finally display the character Jefferson Davis never possessed. They would reject the Big Lie now, on this Inaugural Day, and help put our country on a path toward true unity.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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