Most presidential inauguration days are happy affairs. The dawn of a new administration brings with it hope and curiosity. Most of us welcome the change. A new president means a fresh start. An opportunity to take stock of where we are and look at new options for where we are going. We also are eager to learn more about who our new leaders are, what the themes of the new administration will be, and how fast the impact of new leadership will affect our everyday lives.
This year, things are a bit different. We are not yet over the shock of January 6 and still worry that the forces behind the insurrection were stronger than first assumed. We also worry that we have not yet seen the end of Trumpism, even though its leader self-destructed after his attempt to remain president by force fizzled.
President Biden is being sworn-in in the middle of an armed camp. More than 25,000 troops are at hand to make sure that Proud Boys, Boogaloo, QAnon, and a host of other dangerous terrorists don’t try a second attempt to trash the Constitution. Nationwide, police and governors are on high alert. With their efforts, and with a bit of luck, the day will pass without someone else dying.
The new president and his administration deserve better. And, truth be told, those of us who did not aid or abet the insurrection of January 6 also deserve better. All of us are amid a pandemic that most likely will get worse before it gets better, and an economy that is functioning on the life support of recent and anticipated trillion-dollar plus stimulus bills. Add to this the need for racial healing and the need to root out right-wing extremists, and it’s an understatement to say that President Biden has a full plate.
So, what do we do? The most obvious thing is to give Biden and his proposals our support. Even those of us who are fiscal conservatives need to assess the current mess and let help be delivered to our fellow Americans who need it. Too many people are dying (400,000 as of today), too many people are unemployed (10.7 million), too many businesses (well over 100,000) have closed, and too many pressing social problems remain largely unaddressed.
In this last category is the issue of how to reform our police to the point where we do not go to bed each night worrying about another black person being shot in the back. We also need to figure out a way to combat systemic racism to the point where African Americans tell the rest of us that they see and feel progress. Not an easy task.
Then there is the issue of the insurrectionists and their fellow travelers. We don’t know how many of them there are, but it is certain the new administration must assume that they remain a clear and present danger. Left alone, the far right is likely to attempt to undermine the Biden administration at every turn, through fake news, through additional acts of domestic terrorism, through obstructionism, and by fomenting hate and fear. This means bringing those who have engaged or who will engage in this type of behavior to justice. “National healing” does not mean letting these dangerous criminals go on their merry way. And, yes, the ex-president needs to face the same standards of justice that are supposed to apply to the rest of us. If this means jail for the (ex) chief, so be it.
The Biden administration appears poised to hit the ground running on those parts of its agenda that it would like to emphasize—the “Build Back Better” parts, the empathy, the justice, and the sense of community. If Congress passes Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, we will see immediate progress on the distribution of the vaccine, on relief for those most in need, and on a return to common sense on climate change. What’s not to like?
So, although I will have a tear in my eye as I watch an inauguration take place in an armed camp, I will join the celebration of a fresh start for America. I am proud to call Joe Biden my president and will do my part to help him help us build back better.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.