WASHINGTON – When President Joe Biden tries to fulfill his urgent request for unity, he will face a dissonance between the definitions of the two sides’ words and will probably be forced to choose between fighting for a bold agenda and devising bilateral agreements.
Republican leaders have created a vision of unity in which Biden refrains from actions that antagonize their base of voters who, according to opinion polls, falsely doubt the legitimacy of his election, give a high rating to former President Donald Trump and want their leaders oppose Biden’s program.
Tensions were apparent Wednesday when minority leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, welcomed Biden to the Capitol, saying, “Our job as leaders is to heal the wounds of this nation.”
Biden has set out a progressive program that includes trillions of dollars in new investment and major repairs to the country’s health and immigration systems. And with Republicans resilient to much of his platform, he has narrow Democratic majorities to work with and obstacles to overcome, such as the power of a philibuster by Senate Minority Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky .
Dan Pfeiffer, who tackled a similar dilemma as a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said Biden’s duty would be to “connect with Republicans in Washington in good faith” but not to sacrifice progress for unity.
“After all, if Mitch McConnell decides to be an obstructionist, it’s up to him, not Joe Biden,” Pfeiffer said. “There will be a tendency among many media and experts to solidify Biden’s promise to heal the nation’s soul in nothing more than reassuring Republicans in Congress. Biden’s team will have to repel that dynamic and adjust their expectations accordingly.”
Biden took office with a high rating of approval for his post-election behavior and significant political capital to lead his party. The direction he chooses will have a high stake in the lives of millions of Americans and the Democrats’ prospects in his first by-elections, when the ruling party is historically beating.
Some Democrats believe that moderation is the wiser path.
“The key is to make sure we run from a smarter, more moderate place and to show that we can work with Democrats and Republicans to get things done,” spokesman Josh Gotheimer, DN.J., said in a recent interview. “If we demonstrate this, we will be rewarded for it. If we spend the next two years fighting each other and letting the far left of our party dictate our agenda, there will be many very difficult years ahead.”
Biden’s inauguration on a cold day came during a daunting challenge – a raging pandemic that killed more than 400,000 people in the United States and crippled the economy. He was sworn in on the Western Front of the Capitol, which was seized two weeks ago by a pro-Trump mob.
“Because without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and rage, no progress, only exhausting indignation, no nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the way forward,” Biden said. “Listen to me clearly: Disagreement must not lead to separation.”
It is far from clear that Biden’s pleas for unity will mitigate the opposition party, which is responsible for a base of voters who, according to opinion polls, want their leaders to fight him.
A survey by the Pew Research Center this month captures the asymmetry. Democrats said 25 points apart that Biden must work with Republicans to achieve things, even if it means disappointing some of his constituents. But Republicans said the opposite: Unlike 21 points, they said GP leaders should “oppose Biden” on big issues, even if it makes it difficult to solve critical issues.
“Republicans say, ‘We can’t do anything to you if you’re radioactive with our base, so please don’t say anything that makes you radioactive about our base,'” said Republican consultant Michael Steele, a former House aide.
Some Republicans have called on Biden and Democrats, in the name of unity, to reject the House-approved impeachment article accusing Trump of inciting an uprising.
Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., said in a letter this week to incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., that the impeachment process would be “an act of political revenge” and he warned that ” will encourage further division. “
But Sumer made it clear on Tuesday that the trial would take place.
“We all want to leave this terrible chapter in the history of the nation behind,” he said. “But healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability, not throwing such a heavy charge and horrible actions under the rug.”