Editorial: Biden’s path forward requires unity to quell the pandemic, address climate change and reject white supremacy

President Joe Biden’s goal for the next four years may be the most ambitious platform ever put forward by a leader of this great nation: unity.

God speed, Mr. President.

“This is America’s day. This is democracy’s day, a day of history and hope, of renewal and resolve,” Biden said. “Through a crucible for the ages, America has been tested anew. And America has risen to the challenge. Today we celebrate the triumph, not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy. The people, the will of the people, has been heard, and the will of the people has been heeded.”

Biden offered an olive branch to his political opponents and to those who did not vote for him.

“The American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us, on we the people, who seek a more perfect union,” he said. “This is a great nation. We are good people. And over the centuries, through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we’ve come so far, but we still have far to go.”

Biden made it unequivocally clear there will be no place in his administration for white supremacy and that there is no place in America for racism. We despaired only a few weeks ago when the Confederate flag was paraded through the halls of Congress and Proud Boys espoused their chauvinism unabashed. We rejoiced Wednesday as Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn in, breaking the second-highest glass ceiling not only for women but for women of color. Eighty-one million Americans cast their ballots not only for Biden but also for Harris.

The two are charting a path forward for this country.

The coronavirus is killing thousands of Americans every day, and efforts to slow the spread of this insidious virus have shattered our economy causing unemployment rolls to grow and small businesses to shutter.

“We’ll press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and significant possibilities,” he said.

Pushing out vaccines and pushing compliance with simultaneous efforts to slow the spread of the virus will save thousands of lives and Biden is right to focus his administration on this battle in his first months in office.

But, there are other urgent matters at hand.

“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” he said, giving a nod to the fact that he will not ignore the reality that carbon emissions are warming our planet’s climate faster than anticipated and without efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a host of dire outcomes will come to pass for future generations.

But the president quickly acknowledged that to deal with all three of these crises – the rise of white supremacy, the pandemic and the climate crisis – he will need “the most elusive of all things in democracy: unity.”

“I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days,” he said. “I know that the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we all are created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart.”

We know there is great political and policy disagreement about how to deal with climate change and the pandemic. But those debates are healthy and we hope with a commitment to expunge extremism and demonization from the White House, the president can make room for those conversations to once again rule the day.

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