Joe Biden’s unity call to handle crises Donald Trump left him: Spawned from his resilience
“I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation,” said Biden in his inaugural address.
WASHINGTON — The rampaging COVID-19 pandemic and extraordinary security demands sparked by the Capitol attack two weeks ago forced Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration Wednesday to be stripped of all but a small number of masked and socially distanced people.
Optics and symbols are powerful, and Biden’s inaugural producers turned the National Mall, devoid of a crowd, into a “field of flags,” sending the message that the stars and stripes — often weaponized by now former President Donald Trump, just like he did with COVID masks — cannot be appropriated.
Biden became the nation’s 46th president standing on the same spot where a mob of insurrectionistsinspired by Trump attacked the Capitol, fed by Trump’s lie that they could prevent Biden’s victory. Five people died in the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The president inherits a nation grappling with multiple crises left by Trump, with the most urgent getting the raging pandemic under control. Everything flows from that.
The country is hurting on many fronts — Trump’s attempts to overturn the election exposed dangerous divides, and Biden used his inaugural address to literally list the problems and talk about unity and healing.
“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts,” said Biden.
Biden referred to resilience in his inaugural address, something he knows a lot about.
“I know the resilience of our Constitution and the strength, the strength of our nation,” said Biden.
In her opening speech, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the lead Democrat in charge of inauguration ceremony planning, said that despite the “angry violent mob” staging “an insurrection,” democracy prevailed.
“We pledge today never to take our democracy for granted as we celebrate its remarkable strength. We celebrate its resilience.”
Their talk of resilience prompts me to tell you this story about Biden.
Biden’s life is about resilience of the personal kind that has let him endure, and on Wednesday, prevail, as our new president.
Biden is president after running three times: in the 1988 cycle plus 2008 and 2020, where the candidacy of Barack Obama’s vice president seemed doomed after the first votes in Iowa and New Hampshire.
On election eve in New Hampshire, Feb. 10, 2020, I was at Biden’s closing event. It was clear he would trail in the vote. Only a few hundred people showed up at the St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral gym in Manchester while all his rivals were pulling much bigger crowds.
Sean Hannity was going around throwing microphones in the faces of people asking provocative questions. The most dramatic moment wasn’t anything Biden said. A heckler lunged toward Biden, and wife Jill, now the first lady, ran up and pushed him away.
Afterward, Biden stayed. And stayed. And talked to whoever was hanging around as if he had nowhere to go — these were the days before he had Secret Service protection — until there were only a few people left.
It was, it seemed, the sad end of Biden’s long quest.
A few weeks later, after winning the South Carolina primary, Biden bounced back and was on the path to win the presidency. Now every story does not have this happy ending.
In a general way, though, it’s an example of the aspirational optimism Biden wants to hammer to the front door of the Oval Office he walked into Wednesday afternoon for the first time in four years.
With unity, we can get through stuff — that’s Biden’s opening plea to a nation on edge. Tomorrow does not have to be like yesterday.
Biden, 78, has lived through the grief of the death of his first wife and 13-month-old daughter in a car crash in 1972.
His son, Beau — Biden said at his Delaware farewell event it should have been Beau sworn-in as president Wednesday — died from a brain tumor at the age of 46 in 2015.
Biden’s empathy, his just regular Joe-ness flows from this resilience.
So when Biden tells us in his inaugural speech that things can get better, he talks from experience.
Biden’s healing and unity theme was engineered to address a nation in turmoil because of the surging COVID-19 pandemic and — using his words here — “anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness” along with “racism, nativism, fear, demonization” plus “white supremacy” and “domestic terrorism.”
The last six plagues were fueled by Trump. Twice impeached and facing a Senate trial for inciting that Capitol riot, he was back in Mar-a-Lago by the time Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn-in as president and vice president.
In his speech, Biden offered the antidotes to the curses he listed crippling our nation: “Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and, yes, the truth. The recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and profit.”
Trump may still loom as a factor. We’ll see. For now, “This is a time of testing,” said Biden. A test Biden is confident he — and we — can pass.
KAMALA HARRIS AND RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: COMMON ROOTS IN INDIA
Kamala Devi Harris is the first female, Black person and person of Asian descent — her mother is from India — to be vice president. She was sworn-in by the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., who was born in New Delhi, was at the swearing-in. He said the mood was “festive” and it felt “to me like a big sigh of relief.”
As an Indian-American, moreover, Krishnamoorthi said he was “overjoyed” to be there and witness history.It turns out that when Harris, then a California senator, and Krishnamoorthi met a few years ago, they quickly figured out they shared common roots.
“Her family in India and mine in India are basically from the same place,” Krishnamoorthi, who represents a northwest suburban Chicago district, said. When they chat they have shared references to experiences, foods and places.