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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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Joe Biden ran for president on a message and theme of unity, interested in binding together Americans who have become frayed under past partisanship and the rough, divisive rhetoric of his predecessor.
It’s a hallmark of what brought so many Republicans to his side during the campaign — and to publicly endorse Biden over the summer at the virtual Democratic National Convention instead of backing their own party’s nominee.
And once sworn into office, unity is the first and foremost thing that Biden called for as the nation’s new president, in his inaugural address, in which he promised to be a “president for all Americans.”
“You know, he spoke from the depth of his soul, and we needed this. That was beautiful. You know, beauty heals. Beauty heals. There was not one part of that that wasn’t just medicine in the wound,” political commentator and Obama administration alumnus Van Jones said of Biden’s inaugural speech. “And if you have any doubt that one person can make a difference, that one person’s voice, one person’s commitment, one person’s bedrock faith can be the pivot point for a nation, just watch that speech again and look at how the country responds.”
And only his most partisan opponents have questioned President Biden’s commitment to that unity.
However, that drive reached what might be realistic limits this week in the US Senate, where the legislative framework for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package made it into law by the slimmest margin possible — and with no Republican support.
This was a spending plan that, outside of Washington, had support from the Republican governor of West Virginia, who explicitly said that now was a time for the federal government to come to the aid of hurting Americans.
“This is about people’s lives. This is not just about numbers, it’s about people’s lives people. I can tell any of you, they’re really hurting, people are getting evicted. Just look at all the number of people who are needing and seeking mental health services, suicides up, people are very, very [depressed and turning to] drug abuse,” Biden said at the White House. “People are really — feel in a hole, they don’t know how to get out. You give them a lot of hope. A lot of hope and we’re good.”
But, in the end, with Republicans having walked away, even White House press secretary Jen Psaki had to admit that there would be points where Democrats and Republicans might just part ways.
“Well, first of all, the president ran on unifying the country and putting forward ideas that would help address the crisis we’re facing,” she said. “He didn’t run on a promise to unite the Democratic and Republican Party into one party in Washington.”
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