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Excuse My Skepticism of President Biden’s Call for Unity

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a Democratic presidential primary event in Las Vegas Feb. 15. (Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore)

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

On January 20, 2021, President Biden said in his inaugural address, “And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat. To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”

There is no doubt that the newly sworn-in president’s theme of his inauguration was unity – he said the word “unity” nearly ten times in his first speech as president, almost every former president and vice president from both parties attended the ceremony, and he spoke with the same optimistic tone often associated with Obama’s 2008 inaugural address.

However, in the eyes of a Biden administration or even the Democratic party that controls 2/3 of the federal government, what do they mean by unity?

Generally, politicians have referenced the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as a source of unity; the Bill of Rights is often mentioned as a symbol of individual American liberties. Yet, in Biden’s entire speech, he does not reference the freedom of speech as a pillar of democracy as JFK did. He did not say that “the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights” as MLK Jr. did. He mentioned the deep and dividing problems that face the nation and said that unity is the answer.

The largest problem I saw with Biden’s speech was that he never actually said what we are uniting around. Are we to unite around the perseveration of the first amendment? Are we to unite around the promotion of civil dialogue? Granted, he said we must unite to defeat the pandemic, which implies that we must unite around a common goal of promoting public safety, but beyond the pandemic, the call for unity should centralize around common principles.

The unity that Biden is calling for is one that not every American can fall heir to because it is not universally applied. To suggest America is systemically racist, bigoted, homophobic, white supremacist, and filled with unreconcilable proportions of prejudice and simultaneously suggest America is a tremendous nation is a contradicting narrative.

The fact of the matter is that Biden has yet to define the greatness of America.

Secondly, Joe Biden, congressional Democrats, and liberal members of the media fail to understand why nearly half of the American voter base voted for Trump or Congressional Republicans. Some believe that the entire Republican national party can be grouped with racists, implying that the main reason Republicans voted for Trump was that they are racist. In a Washington Post article by Jennifer Rubin titled, “Republicans, Your Racism is Showing,” she wrote, “The refusal to acknowledge racism is now as much a defining feature of Republican identity as is being pro-life or anti-government. In defending the status quo, Republicans seek to fortify a system that treats Blacks far worse than Whites.”

In the article, she remarks that the reason she is making a blanket generalization for nearly have of the American voter base is that “Around eight in ten Republicans (79%), compared to 40% independents and 17% of Democrats, believe that killings of African Americans by police are isolated incidents. . . . Republicans who trust Fox News most for television news (90%) are even more likely than Republicans as a whole to say that these are isolated incidents.”

First of all, that survey is not representative of every Republican, and, secondly, believing police shootings of blacks are isolated incidents is not a racist idea – it an assessment based on data compiled from the Washington Post. According to their database, as of the summer of 2020, black people account for twenty-four percent (1,293) of the total shootings. Black males represent twenty-three percent (1,246), and black females represent one percent (47). 

However, the number of blacks shot drastically decreases when accounting for the weapon they had on their person. Of the overall twenty-four percent of blacks shot and killed, fourteen percent had a gun (770) and three percent had a knife (174). The overall percentage of unarmed blacks who were shot and killed by police officers is two percent (123). When you also take into consideration the number of unarmed blacks fleeing the scene, the number decreases to one percent (68).  This data evidently shows that the issue of police shootings against blacks is a categorical topic and must be taken into context.

All of this is indicative of a larger disconnection between Democrats and Republicans, especially in their rationale for voting for a specific candidate. Some Democrats, like Ms. Jennifer Rubin, rationalize a “Republican Identity” with a racist mentality, disregarding that other rationales for voting for a Republican.

In fact, there is an argument to be made that a larger portion of the Republican base voted for Trump because he had robust economic policies. Additionally, large police unions may have voted for Trump because he supported the police while Democrats called for their salary to be slashed.

If Biden truly wants to unite with the Republican party, there has to be a clear-cut call for what we are supposed to unite around. Republicans and Democrats can disagree; for all of American history, there was a disagreement of major political issues, but there was always that reoccurring call to safeguard the principles laid out in our founding documents. As to the point of disconnection, Biden has to realize that the vast overwhelming majority of Republicans did not condone the Capitol siege and that they simply disagree on political issues.

I have said this before, and I will say this again, the road to unification does have strong disagreements and passionate debate, but it is also paved with an encompassing and objective view of the greatness of America. Simple civil liberties like freedom of speech, religion, assembly, press, and petition have been the driving force for America’s greatest achievements. Despite our disagreements on major economic issues or foreign warfare, that much we can at least agree on.

Therefore, I am cautiously optimistic about Biden’s call for unity. I want him to succeed and believe he can. If Biden’s legacy is defined by anything, it will be his capacity to lead America outside an axis of darkness and reaffirm the defining principles of America.

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

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