Joe Biden is the 46th President of the United States. It feels like an excruciating two-and-a-half months to get here, but America finally made it here.
The “American Carnage” that Donald Trump has left behind
Before Joe Biden began his presidency, we all watched how Donald Trump ended his. As the nation still reeled from his attempts to illegally stay in power via coup d’etat, Trump spent his final hours in power stewing over his social media bans, taking more executive actions designed to bog down the first days of Biden’s presidency, and fomenting a tsunami of pardons that capped off Trump’s presidential tradition of “covering up crimes with scandals”, as Gaslit Nation co-host Sarah Kendzior has often explained.
As I explained last Thursday, those final hours of Trump’s presidency unleashed a torrent of PTSD from everything that led up to this: the rallies, the insults, the violence, the bigotry, the corruption, the fear, the loss. Over 400,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Some 666 refugee children remain separated from their families. Millions remain in fear of losing their homes, losing their income, and losing any kind of hope for financial stability, let alone hope for a “better future”.
Sure, some folks had a blast over rumors of Trump pardoning the likes of Lil Wayne (confirmed) and “Joe Exotic”/“Tiger King” (denied). However, let’s keep in mind the central ethos of Trump’s presidency that also defines his last-minute pardons. The New York Times already revealed that several of Trump’s apparatchiks demanded bribes for pardons, and The Washington Post reported late last night that Trump’s actual last-minute pardons include known accomplices to his crimes, such as Steve Bannon and Elliott Broidy, and additional politicians convicted on corruption charges. In addition, Trump signed a last-minute executive order freeing up his administration staff to pursue corporate and foreign government lobbying gigs. This right here sums up so much of his tenure in the White House.
From “The Big Lie” to a stunning moment of truth
America's brush with fascism—and how we can stop the country from sliding into it.
— Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) January 17, 2021
— Biden Inaugural Committee (@BidenInaugural) January 19, 2021
The day before Biden’s inauguration, we saw one more stark contrast between the leadership we experienced for the last four years and the leadership we have now. In his farewell address, Trump celebrated his record of “American Carnage” and told one more version of “The Big Lie” of his violent attempt to stay in power after losing the election: “We did what we came here to do ― and so much more. Above all, we have reasserted the sacred idea that in America, the government answers to the people.”
Later that evening, Biden led a somber memorial for the 400,000+ Americans who have died from COVID-19. In direct opposition to Trump’s torrent of lies about COVID-19, Biden called for a remembrance of truth: “It is hard sometimes to remember, but that’s how we heal. It is important to do that as a nation. That is why we are here today. Between sundown and dusk, let us shine the lights in the darkness along this sacred pool of reflection and remember all who we have lost.”
In another stunning contrast to Trump’s COVID-19 disinformation, even to the point of promoting the ingestion of bleach and outright denying the death toll, Vice President Kamala Harris stood with Biden in giving America a chance to actually mourn our many losses: “We gather tonight, a nation in mourning, to pay tribute to the lives we have lost. A grandmother or grandfather who was our whole world. A parent, partner, sibling, or friend who we still cannot accept, is no longer here. And for many months, we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight, we grieve —and begin healing — together.”
“Democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And yes, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
– President Joe Biden
Moments ago, President Joe Biden took the oath of office. He then gave his inaugural address. During that address, Biden declared, “This is democracy’s day, a day of history of hope. America has risen to the challenge.” Biden continued, “We celebrate the triumph of a cause, the cause of democracy.” And he noted, “Democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And yes, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”
As Biden looked ahead to the challenges for his presidency and the nation, he acknowledged, “We’ve come so far, yet we still have so far to go.” Biden then specifically listed some of those challenges, such as COVID-19, the recession, institutional racism, climate change, and far-right extremist terrorism.
As he often did on the campaign trail during the past two years, Biden called for national unity, even as he acknowledged many Americans view such calls for unity as “fantasy”. Or as Biden requested the members of Congress present at the Capitol, “Stop the shouting and lower the temperature. Without unity, there is no peace… Only a state of chaos.”
And as he often did before today, Biden started his presidency with a call to action to restore the basic functions of democractic government: “Let’s start fresh. Let’s listen to one another. Let’s show respect for one another. Every cause of disagreement doesn’t have to be cause for total war.” Biden then added, “America has to be better than this.”
“Together, we will write the American story of hope.”
– President Joe Biden
Even as Biden called for unity, he also called for truth, and for his colleagues in government to “defeat the lies”. According to Biden, “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue. […] We can do this, if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.”
As America continues to suffer the scourge of COVID-19 and the prior administration’s refusal to contain it, Biden promised, “We’ll face this pandemic as one nation. […] We’ll get through this together.”
And as Biden often did on the campaign trail, he voiced optimism and hope for a better future. In one more stark contrast from the prior administration’s pursuit of “American Carnage”, Biden promised to help write a new chapter in America’s story: “I will defend the Constitution. I will defend democracy. I will defend America. […] Together, we will write the American story of hope.”