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Without soaring rhetoric, Biden offered enough of what we need, but will enough of us rise to his challenge?

Joe Biden will never be known as a great orator, which only proves that oratory can be an overestimated talent in a leader.  What matters more is being able to communicate, and Biden managed Wednesday to once again communicate his basic decency and strength to an American public that needs both more than it may recognize. 

Joe Biden delivers a speech after being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday.
Joe Biden delivers a speech after being sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday.
Patrick Semansky/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Enough of us.

No three words in Joseph R. Biden’s inaugural address struck me as more profound.

Are there “enough of us?”

Biden thinks there are. He’s an optimist. That’s why he got elected.

Biden, as expected, pleaded for unity Wednesday as he became the 46th president of the United States.

But he surprised me by also making clear that unity doesn’t necessarily mean all of us in agreement pulling in the same direction, much as it might help at times.

All it really takes is “enough of us” to lead the way.

As Biden observed, our divisions are deep, and they are real, but they are not new.

“The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured. Through civil war, the Great Depression, world war, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifices and setbacks, our better angels have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us — ENOUGH OF US — have come together to carry all of us forward, and we can do that now,” the president said.

There were enough of us on Nov. 3 to vote to pull us out of the abyss of Donald Trump’s presidency, although just barely enough in some places.

And now we must find enough of us willing to “join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature,” in Biden’s words, to end what he calls our “uncivil war.”

I think I’m willing. Are you?

Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden listen to the Pledge of Allegiance before he is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday.
Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden listen to the Pledge of Allegiance before he is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday.
Jonathan Ernst/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

As much as Democrats may not want to hear it, that may require setting aside their own understandable desire to punish Trump for his unprincipled four years in office.

It definitely will require more Republicans abandoning the self-delusion that the election was somehow stolen.

Joe Biden will never be known as a great orator, which only proves that oratory can be an overestimated talent in a leader.

What matters more is being able to communicate, and Biden managed Wednesday to once again communicate his basic decency and strength to an American public that needs both more than it may recognize.

Biden got his points across, eloquently at times thanks to the speechwriters, but more often simply, thanks to his own common sense.

We can end our uncivil war, he said, “if we are willing to stand in the other person’s shoes — as my mom would say.” That’s the sort of thing my mom would say, too.

President Joe Biden points to guests attending his inauguration on the West Front of the US Capitol on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden points to guests attending his inauguration on the West Front of the US Capitol on Wednesday.
Caroline Brehman / Pool / AFP via Getty Images

Biden’s speech did not dwell on the mistakes of the man who preceded him in office, except by inference.

One such passage was his pledge to be “a president for all Americans,” implying not just for those who voted for him, the trap into which Trump fell.

I found myself disagreeing with Biden only once. That’s when he said: “And here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, to drive us from this sacred ground.”

For me, the truly frightening part of Jan. 6 is that the riotous mob believed it actually represented the will of the people, having convinced itself beyond reason that Trump won the election. That’s a distinction that should not be overlooked.

Sure, the inauguration itself is proof that enough of us know better, but are there also enough of us to bring the country together, put the pandemic behind us and move forward on the other great challenges we face?

Biden’s lofty words were a complete contrast from the dark ones delivered four years previously by Trump in his flag-waving “American carnage” speech.

Maybe that’s evidence of our national bipolar disorder.

I’d prefer to think it’s a sign that we’ve already taken the first step in our recovery.