President Joe Biden’s campaign promise to unite the country is being put to an early test. Here’s what Republicans and Democrats are saying so far. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Can Biden Unite the Country?
In The National Interest, Rachel Bucchino writes: “Democrats on Capitol Hill are working to jam through the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package with or without Republican support, using a legislative procedure known as reconciliation—a move that will put President Joe Biden’s promise to restore bipartisanship to an early test and determine whether Democrats are truly united to solve the unprecedented series of crises.” Here’s what both sides are saying and why this story matters:
On the Right
The right hears only empty rhetoric in President Biden’s plea for unity. The general consensus is that actions speak louder than words, and the Biden Administration’s actions point in the opposite direction of harmony. Simply put, they feel like he will not unite the country.
The unity Biden preaches is real but only focused on unifying various Democratic constituencies. That’s the view of Michael Goodwin writing in The New York Post. As Goodwin sees it, Biden’s decision to sign a record number of executive orders (including an order canceling the XL pipeline and a moratorium on illegal migrants at the border) will cause discord.
Ben Domenech writing in The Federalist concurs: “Biden can talk of unity, and insist he’ll fire you if you aren’t decent to people, while at the same time sign an order demanding every federally funded educational institution allow boys in girls’ locker rooms.”
Peder Zane goes a step further in Real Clear Politics. He sees a Democratic party joining forces with Big Tech to disparage 74 million Trump voters due to the actions of a few thousand. Together, they are exploiting the events of January 6 in an effort to quash dissent. Zane elaborates: “The leftist ideology Democrats and their allies have embraced…sees everyone—except, of course, their enlightened selves—as unthinking empty vessels. They believe their mission is to fill these pathetic puppets (i.e., you and me) with their virtuous brew of truth.” He ends with a plea to liberals: “I keep hoping that reasonable liberals will rise up and speak out against these illiberal forces.” If they don’t, there could be political repercussions. Michael Barone, also in Real Clear Politics, adds that pushing partisan party-line policy boomeranged politically on both Presidents Obama and Clinton.
Republicans see no evidence that supports Joe Biden’s unity rhetoric. To the contrary, they increasingly believe the left seeks only submission, not conciliation.
On The Left
Biden’s ability to unite the country also looks increasingly unattainable to the left. Some are calling for consensus, but one with conditions. In their eyes, cooperation can’t come at the expense of important legislation.
In USA Today, David Rothkopf explains that “Unity is an aspirational goal. But we must not mistake it for the impossible ideal of unanimity or even for bipartisan collaboration on every issue.” Rothkopf is wary of conciliation with GOP counterparts intent on obstruction.
Brian Bennet and Alana Abramson echo those sentiments in TIME. They cite a person familiar with the White House outreach to GOP lawmakers: “So far, these efforts have yielded nothing, and patience with Republicans is wearing thin.” The duo believes that time is running out and the Biden Administration must decide between quick self-serving legislation or bipartisanship.
In The Los Angeles Times, Robin Abcarian professes that there can be no unity without an agreement on key facts: “To achieve unity, we have to agree that Trump lost decisively (both in the electoral college and the popular vote), that the virus is real and will keep wreaking havoc on the economy until we deal with it, and that racism is a daily and damaging fact of American life. We have to agree that rioters who stormed the Capitol and caused mayhem must be punished, and that any leader who incited them must be held to account.” She believes that convicting former President Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment trial is a “golden opportunity for Republicans to recommit themselves to a fact-based shared reality.” As Abcarian sees it, the most promising hope for unity lies with members of the Republican party who continue to buck Trump politically: Brad Raffensperger, Mitt Romney, and the ten GOP House members who voted to impeach.
The left is open to unity but not at the expense of their legislative agenda or needing to placate Congressional peers who disagree with key facts relating to COVID, racism, the US capitol riot, and the corrosive character of Donald Trump.
In The Hill, Brad Bannon cites mixed polling on unity. He points to an ABC News/Ipsos poll that shows 77% of Americans taking Biden’s word that he seeks to unify the country. However, just 22% of those same people believe unity is actually possible in this political climate. Marist polling is more optimistic, however. According to their data, “A majority of registered voters — 55% — say Biden will do more to unite the country than to divide it, versus the 39% who feel the opposite.”