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A New Day, but Twin Pandemics Await

Updated: Jan 21

A new day filled with hope has arrived, but America's new president, Joseph R. Biden, now must confront twin pandemics that threaten our nation, and the extent to which he succeeds will largely determine the well-being of every single one of us.

(Listen to the podcast)

One of those pandemics, Covid 19, already has claimed 402,000 lives, many of them tragically caused by the lack of concerted and effective action by Donald Trump. Now the Biden administration must tackle that challenge and get vaccines into peoples' arms as quickly and efficiently as is humanly possible. It must deal with the economic crisis caused by that pandemic as well.

But the second pandemic, that of hate, fear, and racial division, may prove to be an equally serious threat to our nation and even more difficult to overcome.

In his inaugural address, Biden pledged to meet that challenge, recognizing the threat that it poses to our democracy -- as was evident in the razor wire that surrounded the Capitol for the inauguration ceremony, necessitated by continuing security threats following the January 6 Trump-incited mob attack on the people's house.

Call for Unity

“This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge,” Biden said. “Unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, I guarantee you we will not fail.”

“Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path,” he said, standing on the very Capitol portico that had been overrun by domestic terrorists that day as Trump supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying the election of Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

“We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile — and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” he said.

In his remarks, Biden issued stern warnings to extremists who seek to overrun our democracy.

"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," he said. "It did not happen. It will never happen. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Not ever."

As he repeatedly has done, Biden promised to be the president of all the people, not just those who supported him.

Acknowledging that many Americans view the future with fear and trepidation, he said, "the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don't look like you or worship the way you do, or don't get their news from the same sources you do. 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. If we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we're willing to stand in the other person's shoes..."

Bringing that promised unity means he must confront the reality of those millions of Americans who still believe Trump's lies that the election was rigged and stolen from him, and who still support Trump's views of White supremacy, of "us against them."

Such a view was expressed today in an email from a Trump supporter that was sent even as Biden spoke from the Capitol's portico, calling for unity. It was sent to a South Carolina county Democratic official who had responded to an earlier email in which the man claimed the election had been stolen. The Democratic official noted that 60 court cases had been rejected, including some by Trump-appointed judges.

"Why don't you kiss my TRUMP loyalist ASS???????? You socialist hack wack." the man wrote.

No doubt, that is a mild version of the sentiments held by many of those who still back Trump, even as he is now a private citizen living in luxury in his swanky South Florida resort. It is simply indicative of that pandemic of hate and division that persists and that Biden must confront. And, there is danger of more violence as Trump's impeachment trial moves forward in the Senate.

Challenges Await

But, while Biden confronts all of that, many other challenges await the new administration.

In addition to the pandemic and its devastating economic and social impact, Biden has pledged to address climate change and racial justice — illustrated in 2020 with huge climate-propelled fires in California and unrest over police violence resulting from the deaths of Black victims, including George Floyd and Brionna Taylor.

There is the immigration crisis that faces the nation largely because of Trump's vicious and hateful actions designed to play into the fears and prejudices of his base of supporters. And, there is the need to restore international respect for America, badly damaged by Trump's "America First" policies.

Already, he's proposed a $1.9 trillion package of economic stimulus and pandemic relief, and even today planned to sign numerous executive orders to undue many of Trump's most harmful actions.

They include rescinding the travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries, rejoining the Paris climate change accord and World Health Organization, extending pandemic-related limits on evictions and student loan payments, issuing a mask mandate for federal property and interstate travel, and ordering agencies to reunite children separated from families after crossing the border.

They also include halting construction of Trump's border wall, embracing progressive polices on the environment and diversity that Trump blocked, and installing a coronavirus response coordinator to oversee the administration's efforts to distribute vaccine and medical supplies.

Can Biden succeed with important initiatives that require legislative action by Congress, like the coronavirus relief initiative? Much depends upon whether this former senator can work with Republican leaders to avoid blockages caused by the filibuster, which means 60 votes are required for passage.

That may be difficult to achieve. But there is hope. Today, instead of going to a Maryland airfield for an early morning ceremony for Trump as he left for Florida in defeat, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other leading GOP legislators joined Biden for mass prior to the inauguration ceremony.

Perhaps that signifies a new mood in Washington, one that can result in positive action that will benefit the American people, and in the doing, help ease the divisions that currently afflict the nation.

Let's hope that is the case.

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