Can Joe Biden unify a divided nation?
The lights in America are bright now after the nation has been shrouded in darkness for four years. The questions facing Joe Biden’s presidency are how long his fragile honeymoon period lasts and whether he can unify a deeply divided nation.
It was the inaugural speech many Americans expected and wanted to hear from Biden. He emphasized unity over partisanship and division. The 46th president clearly tried to lower the temperature in Washington in the hope that cooler heads would prevail as he begins to advance his agenda and reverse the damage that former President Trump inflicted.
The essence of his speech came in two sentences, “For without unity, there is no peace — only bitterness and fury,” and “no progress — only exhausting outrage.”
If Biden’s inauguration was successful, he will get a brief honeymoon to heal the grieving nation and put Trump’s failed presidency behind us. Whether the honeymoon lasts months, weeks or days is anybody’s guess.
The early polling indicates that Biden does have a honeymoon with the public. In a national ABC News/Washington Post poll, two out of every three (68 percent) Americans approved of the Biden transition. This grade was much higher than the score for Trump’s transition four years earlier.
The public also approved of the new president’s early actions against the pandemic according to an ABC News/Ipsos survey conducted on his third and fourth days in office. Seven in 10 (69 percent) Americans approved of his response to the coronavirus crisis. Even four out of 10 (40 percent) Republicans supported his action against the dreaded disease.
In one of his first actions as chief executive, the Biden brought Dr. Anthony Fauci and his reassuring presence back out of hiding. He asked Fauci to be the chief medical advisor who will lead the COVID-19 team and continue to serve as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). After being sidelined by the Trump administration, Fauci’s emergence confirms the hope that the new administration will aggressively fight — not downplay — the pandemic that has shattered American society.
More than 400,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that a half a million people will have died from the disease by the middle of next month.
Many Americans hope the beginning of Biden’s presidency means a new and better chapter for America, but he inherits a nation in distress and a democracy in danger.
The responses in the ABC News/Ipsos poll also dramatically demonstrate the fragility of this state of grace.
The pollsters showed the respondents a clip of Biden’s inaugural speech and most of them (71 percent) were convinced by his pleas for unity. But only one-fifth (22 percent) of them had confidence in his ability to bring the nation together. The imminent Senate trial for Trump’s second impeachment is likely to make harmony and unity much more difficult to attain.
The poll also demonstrated that immigration is the fault line in Biden’s quest for national unity and bipartisanship.
The good news is that a majority of Americans support the president’s executive orders to reverse the former Trump’s anti-immigration actions. The poll indicates that most Americans support the new president’s orders to reverse the Trump actions such as the Muslim travel ban, the construction of the Mexican border wall and the effort to destroy the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The bad news is that at least three out of four Republicans oppose each of these Biden orders. There are millions of disgruntled and frustrated Trump supporters still out there to fan the fires of intolerance. But at least, hate no longer has a home at the White House.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is the host of the podcast Deadline D.C. with @BradBannon and the Progressive Voices network.