Congratulations, President-elect Biden. You’ve made your share of history already, from receiving the most votes for U.S. President in history to your running mate, who becomes the first woman and the first woman of color to be voted in as vice president.
But there are other things you must keep in mind both during an after this transition of power. First, you didn’t exactly receive a mandate. You received the most votes for U.S. president in a single election. But second all-time on that list is President Donald Trump. Your 74 million votes outdistance his 71 million. His 71 million votes, by the way, exceeds the total number of votes cast in the country in 1964.
Half the country did note vote for you. But you are going to win the popular vote, unlike President Trump. He governed the last four years with half the country opposed to his election. You’re walking into that hornets’ nest this year. That makes even more important your remarks last weekend that you understand there are people who didn’t vote for you and are disappointed, but you intend to be a leader for all, not just those who supported you.
Speaking of hornets’ nest, you’ve been watching a horrifying 2020 along with the rest of us. What terrifies half of us delights the other half, except for COVID-19, which has made a mess of the economy and of our household budgets. Your administration will probably be in charge of distribution of the vaccine. If you want to show your administration is different, make the distribution calm, peaceful, equitable and without issue. You’ll also be nursing a damaged economy, and you’re going to have to have some clever ideas — ideas we haven’t heard much about from any politician this year — if you’re going to succeed.
Ahhh, success. How can we define the success of a Biden presidency? Perhaps the most important goal is bringing the country together, not allowing the extremists on either side of an issue to frame the debate. That’s a far bigger challenge than it seems at first glance. See, the extremists don’t see themselves as extremists. They see themselves as correct, and those opposing them are wrong. Extremists don’t want to compromise because they think they’re 100% correct. The only way to address their concerns is to start listening to them and find out exactly what they want and why, and exactly what they fear and why. We can’t even begin to attempt to unite until we — everyone on every side of every divide — start listening.
You need to prepare for dealing with the country’s version of Illinois Speaker of the House, U.S. Senate President Mitch McConnell. McConnell has established himself as the leader of the “no’s” who plays politics with the country at stake and as a man whose memory conveniently fades if the circumstances will play in his favor.
McConnell will be as obstructionist as he’s been throughout his reign. Your party did not flip the Senate — also a sign that you don’t have a mandate.
It may seem that surviving the slog that led to the election should be victory enough. It’s enough after a fashion. But you also have to remember not all the people crowding streets in the last week have been cheering for you. Words, protests and votes mean nothing unless they’re backed up with action.
You and your backers don’t have to extend any kind of acknowledgment toward opponents, particularly if you feel they’ve been singling you out. But it might also be worth considering that giving an ear to your political opponent might be the most patriotic thing all of us can do right now.
An editorial from The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan, Illinois.