President Joe Biden ran on the mantra that the 2020 election would be a “battle for the soul of the nation.” Now, as he takes office, it is time to repair that very soul.
Former President Donald Trump has not served to make matters any easier for Biden. His divisive rhetoric over the past four years empowered the racists, conspiracy theorists and insurrectionists in the United States. It only worsened in his waning months as he baselessly claimed he won the election — which polls say over 50% of Republicans believe — and incited the riot and invasion of the U.S. Capitol.
Trump’s failure to attend Biden’s inauguration sent further signals to his base that he does not recognize Biden as the legitimate president. The former president’s actions have done anything but help unite our country, and instead only made it more difficult for Biden to be an effective leader.
Biden admitted in his inaugural address that unity in the United States may feel like a “foolish fantasy” to many due to the current political climate. Perhaps it is a foolish fantasy, as QAnon continues to grow, and constant threats of rebellion from alt right groups remain, along with the U.S. congressmen and senators who refuse to heed to fact.
Given the situation, it may seem hard to believe that the United States can become wholly united again. In fact, it is possible that the easiest thing is to accept that there will always be a portion of the country that believes in an alternative set of facts, and we will never be able to reconcile our differences.
However, as Biden alludes to in his inaugural address, we must do our best as a country and as citizens to oppose the forces dividing us. Even when it may seem like a hopeless effort, we must try as best we can to reach the growing number of Americans who are politically on the fringe. This effort must start with Biden leading by example.
Biden must use his platform and power as the leader of the free world to promote the spread of facts and trust in U.S. institutions and government. This should include speeches and messaging, executive actions to stop the spread of fake news without infringing on First Amendment rights and an enhanced focus on civics education in American schools.
Fake news, conspiracy theorists and extremism may not be tangible issues but they are dangerous nonetheless. Biden must work to unite the country in order to heal the nation’s soul and to be able to pursue his own policy agenda with the entire country recognizing him as their leader.
The new administration should address this divide forcefully and swiftly so that it does not continue to grow. Although much of this extremism lives on the internet, it is starting to become a more palpable threat as shown by the number of protests against Trump’s loss and the storming of the Capitol building.
Although Biden must take the lead in unifying the U.S., all citizens should contribute. This could be through reaching out to a friend or neighbor who has doubts about the sanctity of our elections or government or engaging in dialogue with members of the opposite party. Hearing out people’s opinions, seeking to understand them and simply having a constructive conversation could help heal divides or serve to educate others.
It is a difficult time in the U.S., but if the right steps are taken and the people tackle this divide head on, it can become an opportunity to better the country and help form a more perfect union.