Finding unity in Joe Biden's America

Finding unity in Joe Biden's America
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The events of Jan. 6 have Americans thinking about 9/11. Though these attacks were fundamentally different, they share something critically important: Both shook our country’s foundation, causing us to question our future.

But unlike 9/11, when Americans came together with a shared sense of purpose and resilience, we find ourselves in emotional and ideological tatters today. 

New polling finds that 71 percent of Americans believe democracy is under threat. Over 50 percent believe that political violence will increase over the next few years and, perhaps most jarring, 54 percent see “other people in America” as the biggest threat to America’s way of life.

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Perception of what happened at the Capitol, and who’s responsible, is deeply divided along party lines. While Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE’s job approval has cratered to 29 percent overall and 55 percent blame him for the insurrection, Republican approval of Trump sits at 80 percent and 75 percent don’t believe Joe BidenJoe BidenOvernight Defense: Senate panel adds B to Biden's defense budget | House passes bill to streamline visa process for Afghans who helped US | Pentagon confirms 7 Colombians arrested in Haiti leader's killing had US training On The Money: Senate braces for nasty debt ceiling fight | Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan deal | Housing prices hit new high in June Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks MORE won the election. Furthermore, 76 percent of Republicans don’t blame Trump for the attack. In fact, more Republicans blame the Capitol Police than Trump by a margin of 37 percent to 23 percent.

Staring at disparities so great, it feels foolish to even try to mend fences. But giving up on the American project is absolute anathema to Joe Biden. No way the American Dream is going to die on his watch.

To breathe new life into a depleted American spirit, there’s so much more to remedy than what happened at the Capitol. A renewed focus on fairness, civic education and freedom from fear will be critical to Biden’s success — and the country’s.

Fairness is the cornerstone of Biden’s "Build Back Better" agenda, steering an economy in which every American enjoys an equal chance to get ahead. His recently announced "American Rescue Plan" will use a $1.9 trillion stimulus to restart the economy and defeat the coronavirus. His proposals will expand the safety net for American families struggling to weather the economic shutdown: an extra $1,400 per person in addition to $600 in direct checks, a temporary increase in unemployment benefits, a halt to evictions and foreclosures, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and requiring employers to provide paid sick leave.

These initiatives enjoy broad bipartisan public support. Four-in-five Americans favor $2,000 checks, two-thirds of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and 75 percent of Americans want paid sick leave.

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In addition to supporting policies of fairness and expanding the safety net during a pandemic, Americans voted for Biden and an agenda that focuses on unity and freedom from fear from discrimination, climate inaction, and discriminatory immigration policies.

Biden has pledged to reverse executive orders and policies that demean and debase LGBTQ Americans. He’ll lift the Trump administration’s near-total ban on military service for transgender people and has made the Equality Act, a bill to extend anti-bias protections to every state in areas such as housing and public services, a top legislative priority.   

Climate change has gained more support for action across the ideological spectrum with two-thirds of Americans wanting more aggressive federal government action. Biden will rejoin the Paris climate accord and has made climate change a priority across his government.

More than three-fourths of Americans believe that immigration is good for America. Taking steps to unwind the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant posture, Biden will end the so-called “Muslim travel ban” and has asked Congress to offer a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants.

And in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, combating domestic terrorism has become a pressing priority. White supremacists and other like-minded groups were responsible for two-thirds of “terrorist plots and attacks” in the first eight months of 2020. With a potent disinformation campaign orchestrated by QAnon believers to discredit and undermine the legitimacy of our elections, Biden is committed to federal action to halt the further erosion of our democracy.    

Finally, with trust in our public institutions and our communities at a low, investment in civic education is critical. While education in science, technology, engineering and math has been important to American innovation and entrepreneurship, a focus on the social sciences and humanities will make our society more resilient, empathetic and tolerant to differences of opinion. One need not look further than Trump’s proposed “1776 Commission” and recent Republican rantings on the free-speech censorship by big technology companies to recognize our need for civics reeducation. Biden should empower Congress to make this a bipartisan priority. 

We aren’t naïve. There’s no magic bullet to bring about American healing. But an emphasis on restoring faith in the cornerstones of society is a good place to start.  

A recent anecdote about how Biden works on legislation makes us even more sure that he’s the right man for the job. While working with his team, Biden regularly chides them for being overly academic or elitist in their approach and language. “Pick up the phone, call your mother, read her what you just told me,” he likes to say. The new president is thinking about all Americans. 

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.

Jeff Le is a political partner with the Truman National Security Project. He was deputy cabinet secretary to former California Gov. Jerry Brown (2015 to 2019). Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyDLe.