Unity and togetherness were the themes of President Joe Biden’s inauguration — welcome ideas for a country tired of the partisan politics and hateful divisions perpetuated through the last four years.
The average person went from generally less knowledgeable about politics to extremely embroiled in ideological divides; liberal and conservative, progressive and moderate. You either hate former President Donald Trump or you love him. It is undeniable he has been the driving force behind the United States’ accelerated plunge into radicalization.
“To overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy — unity.”
There could not be a more appropriate way to frame Biden’s forthcoming presidency. America’s divisiveness has only been perpetuated by Trump’s rhetoric and disdain for democracy, undercutting Biden’s goal of unity.
Trump may be the American face of his toxic ideology, but he is only a manifestation of a larger global trend toward right-wing populism. More alarmingly, Trump is no longer a lone ideologue in American politics. A Republican Party once disgusted by his rhetoric and fear-mongering has found unprecedented success riding his tailcoats.
On this front, the GOP is split. We have already seen factions forming, some encouraging “Trumpism,” such as Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and others preaching a return to civility, such as former President George W. Bush and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.
There are even scattered reports claiming Trump may start his own party, dubbed the “Patriot Party.”
Which of these factions grows stronger is difficult to predict, especially as Trump has lost much credibility within his own base. Even some fanatic QAnon supporters realized they were duped as the inauguration passed by without the promised dramatic culmination of the conspiracy theory.
“OMG none of this was real,” said one QAnon follower earlier this afternoon.
“Wake up, we’ve been had,” was the response to the inauguration of another.
Biden has his work cut out for him with such widespread extremism and misinformation. There are Republicans who are willing to work alongside Democrats, but they are largely silent in fear of the base they themselves have radicalized. Biden will struggle to convince his supporters that unity is worth the trouble.
Trump questioned the election’s legitimacy for his own image among his base, but it’s become a monster of Trump’s own. I would not be surprised to see similar rhetoric, and perhaps violence, pervade the forthcoming national elections for at least a decade. I fear the consequences of a U.S. president questioning an election’s legitimacy still have not fully revealed themselves.
Earlier this month, the Confederate flag pierced the Capitol for the first time in American history. That momentum won’t simply disappear. It will pervade Biden’s presidency.
Thankfully, as of Wednesday afternoon, threats of similar violence never manifested themselves at the inauguration, despite threatening whispers from the darkest corners of the internet. The sunny ceremony was a breath of fresh air for all who have missed a president not hell-bent on gaslighting the American people.
The Biden administration seems exceedingly motivated to extend an olive branch to those across the political aisle. This is a good thing for our nation. To perpetuate the divisions steadily grown in recent years can only lead to more hate.
A good place to start would be the $2,000 checks that the Biden team has promised. But beyond that, there is a lot of work cut out ahead of them.
Passing the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in 2018 and was never renewed, is one place. Updating and improving a form of national healthcare — either through the Affordable Care Act or a universal single-payer option — would be another. Decriminalizing marijuana, an increasingly bipartisan goal, should also be on the docket.
But Biden’s first, and most important, goal for today’s America is to be a calming voice and guiding hand in the ultimate goal of creating a truly united America.
Noah Moore (he/him) is a sophomore studying psychology, theatre and international studies. He is a Wells Scholar, off-campus representative in Student Body Congress and varsity dancer for the Singing Hoosiers. Noah enjoys listening to music and hiking around Lake Monroe.