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Opening 2021: The challenge for Joe Biden and for America



When Joe Biden raises his hand to take the oath, he will replace the president, better known for raising his fist, when he takes office on January 6. Biden will soon be on the same steps that his predecessor turned into a crime scene. .

Capital halls, once full of students in backpacks, are now full of a bivouac. Oats replaced by barricades. Defiles with plywood. No amount of American flags will be able to clear the memory of its use in the attack.

“I think the feeling that a lot of Americans have had since the beginning of the pandemic, that we̵

7;re going through an unprecedented crisis, has really erupted into something even bigger,” said Harvard professor Jill Lepore.

She uses the word “unprecedented” carefully. An author of a sweep for America (“These Truths: A History of the United States”), she has a slow pulse as a historian. But, she says, the word corresponds to our time.

“I think the comparison will be 9/11, which in many ways is a very different political moment and a very different case of violence,” Lepore told 60 Minutes correspondent John Dickerson. “It’s basically an act of war. But I think at the time, Americans understood that something profoundly changed.

“I think we will remember January 6th in the same way that it was a day when everything changed, when the unthinkable became possible in the United States.”

“With at least one reading, the president has incited a mob to pursue the legislature,” said Jamel Bui, a columnist for The New York Times. “Even if the president resigns soon, there will still be a crisis, not because he is there, but because we have learned something about the political system. We have learned something about what is possible and what at least some faction of American voters and American lawmakers believe about the essence of our democracy is that if they can’t win, then the person who makes it or the party that makes it is not legitimate. “

Bui refers to Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 speech “A Divided House” (“A house divided against itself cannot stand”): “And, you know, like the modern discussion of this, or in the popular discussion,” a divided house “It’s usually about sorting out the political divide. But the literal metaphor was, ‘The house can’t stand that way; it has to be one thing or another. “

Dickerson said, “That’s right, the ‘Separated from Home’ speech is not ‘Now, let’s all get together,’ but ‘One country has to win this argument.’ “

“That’s right. And there’s no long-term alternative in which we have a faction of Americans who look at the Capitol attack and see it as something to emulate or something to repeat, as something that is commendable. As something that can’t. to co-exist with the Constitutional Government, as we understand it, “Bui said.

Initial swearing-in

Carolyn Custer / AP


Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson said: “We currently have a policy that is currently seen as a team sport. The biggest problem is providing help and comfort to the other side, instead of, you know, talking about these differences. “

Gerson was the lead author of President George W. Bush’s introductory speech in 2001: The address came after a fierce election in 2000, which was decided by the Supreme Court:

“America has never been united by blood, birth or soil. We are committed to ideals that move us beyond our background, elevate us above our interests, and teach us what it means to be a citizen.”

“I went back and read the speech very recently,” Gerson said, “and I found that I was suffocating not only because of the words, but also because it was a realistic prospect at this point that we could have national healing based on shared national values.”

“My concern at the moment is, is this a naive approach? You know, will the acceptance of common values ​​be accepted by a country that lives in different cultures and lifestyles?”

The problem, Gerson said, is that President Trump and the Republican Party have inflamed politics to such an extent that it cannot be lowered.

“Well, I think apocalyptic language is one of the worst problems in our politics – the view that if you lose, that country is lost,” Gerson said. “It’s a way to motivate voter turnout. It’s also a way to destroy institutions in the country.”

President Trump’s Apocalyptic Theater, with itself as a defender of Christianity, was played last summer at the site where Mr. Biden will begin his Opening Day: St. John’s Church, just steps from the White House.

“Politics must be flexible; it must be given and given,” Lepore said. “You have to be able to tolerate the political opinions of your political opponents. They have to be legitimate opinions. They can’t be heresies. And this fusion of religion and politics in the 20th century, you know, we see the price of that now.”

In 1801, after one of the ugliest political campaigns in America, Thomas Jefferson tried to put out the flames. “Any difference in opinion is not a difference in principle,” he said in his opening remarks, promising stability because “a mistake in opinion can be tolerated when the mind is left free to fight it.”

But does reason still fit the task?

Lepore said: “If you attack institutions that produce and disseminate knowledge, if you attack them as having no knowledge, you somehow get to the point where you have undermined the very idea that there is such a thing as knowledge.”

Biden’s new administration can take advantage by simply offering a steady stream of useful information – potentially reviving a long-forgotten “slow news day.”

Leporus said, “Actually, you just have to show up, have real information, bring in people who do their job, and answer the questions that the press and the public have.”

“Only the facts, ma’am” rule? Dickerson asked.

“Yeah,” she laughed. “I really think that goes a long way.”

The more difficult task for the incoming administration will be to talk to voters who are afraid of it.

Gerson said: “I think it will be his main task in taking office, to talk to Americans who no longer feel even connected to this experiment, and to tell them that they have a stake and that they are valued in this system. I think you need to give people who have supported Trump over the years a place to find a different way of doing politics. You know, you can’t dismiss them as forever tainted.

“Rhetoric can do a lot to try to create a space for reason. And that, I think, what they need to look for right now is a way to give asylum (rhetorical asylum) to those who want to serve On the side . “

Joe Biden will be found on the occasion of the uprising. But the Capitol wound will be on his back. In front of? The path to recovery is found in the millions who march, gather and vote peacefully; and the officials who defended the vote. They have joined an exhausted army that already maintains faith – the first to react and our neighbors to transport us within a year of the pandemic.

The inaugurations are a spectacular rediscovery of the American experiment, where hope lies not in those who violate its standards, but in those who – although they feel broken – supports these standards.


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A story produced by Ed Forgotson. Editor: Remington Korper.


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