Not all Trump did was bad – so don't ditch the good stuff, Joe
IT was a Presidential inauguration like no other. Masked dignitaries mingling at a safe distance from America’s 46th President.
And when it came time for him to speak, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr addressed a physical crowd of little more than 1,000.
But it was the 330million American citizens that he needed to impress — half of whom did not vote for him, some of whom cannot stand him.
Opinion polls show that a majority of Donald Trump voters still do not accept the result of November’s election.
So to avoid any repeat of the pro-Trump violence earlier this month, 25,000 members of the national guard were drafted into Washington DC to keep any mob at bay.
In a typical act of gracelessness, the outgoing President boycotted his successor’s swearing-in.
People often talk about the “divided” nature of American politics, but the truth is this has never been worse.
The country is now divided into two camps armed not just with different sets of opinions but with different sets of facts.
And they are also actually armed, of course.
So Joe Biden had better mean what he says when he talked yesterday about unifying the nation with “renewal”, “resolve” and “hope”.
TALK IS EASY, ACTIONS ARE HARD
“I will be a President for all Americans and I promise you I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did,” went the pitch.
But, of course, talk like that is easy. It is actually doing it that is the hard part.
Before yesterday’s inauguration speech he taunted Trump as “the most incompetent President in the history of the United States of America”.
He has followed up such barbs by announcing an immediate gear-change from the policies of the Trump administration.
Since Biden and his party now have control not just of the White House but also of Congress and the Senate, they can of course do almost anything they want.
But they should be careful.
Not everything Trump achieved in office was bad.
In fact many of the policies he pursued are worth holding on to. And the Democrats should make sure they do not ditch policies just because Trump favoured them.
Biden and his team have already announced that from day one they will take the US back into the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
They have also announced a repeal of the various immigrations bans he put in place.
More controversially, they look set to take the US back into the Iran nuclear agreement, a deal that allows Iran to continue re-arming while pretending it has stopped its nuclear program.
If the Biden administration goes back into that it will show it is not just vengeful but naive.
Still, the most important question will be to see what Biden does about China.
One of the best things about the Trump administration was that, for the first time, a Western government recognised what the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is up to.
It isn’t just that Trump’s team called out the concentration camp and forced labour systems that the CCP uses inside China.
The most important question will be to see what Biden does about China.
It wasn’t just that they called out the brutal suppression in Hong Kong, or the bullying of Australia.
It was that Trump and his team recognised that China is not a fair competitor.
Trade with China is not “free trade”. It is trade with a country that — with forced labour among other devices — has undercut Western markets and stripped millions of jobs from our economies.
Many of the people who voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 did so because they were hurting from this.
They were hurting from the increased power of China as a global competitor to America.
And this year, when everybody’s economy except for China’s has slumped (due to the coronavirus) it is more important than ever that the US responds to Beijing with toughness.
In part, that should be to hold the Chinese communists accountable for the virus.
But it should also be because pro-China policies of the type Biden has previously backed hurt American workers.
Very few US politicians ever seemed to care about that hurt. Some on the radical Left of Biden’s party even rubbed salt into the wounds.
They claimed Trump supporters were all white (not true) or white supremacists (even less true).
And then they talked about “white privilege’” as though an unemployed family on the poverty line in “flyover” America has any damn privilege at all.
Biden has already joined in with this divisive talk.
Last week, announcing help for small businesses recovering from the Covid crisis, he said his administration would give “priority” to “black, Latino, Asian and Native American-owned small businesses” as well as “women-owned” companies.
This type of divisive talk is what gave Trump part of his opening five years ago. That his successor should be talking like this is a terrible sign.
In order to unite America, Biden must fulfil his promise yesterday to speak for all Americans. He must seek to understand all Americans.
And he should seek to treat people as they are — first and foremost as equal citizens, not as members of various identity groups.
At its best, the US has been one of the greatest beacons of world democracy — a point the new President highlighted several times yesterday. Its light has flickered lately.
But it is Joe Biden’s gift to rekindle it or snuff it out.
America — and all its friends — must hope he makes the right choice. And wish him well.
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