After all the twists and turns following the November 3 presidential elections which Joe Biden won clearly with 306 electoral college votes and over 7 million popular votes, January 20, 2021 was going to be a special and historic day in America. And that was exactly what happened when Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as President and Vice President respectively.
As the sun set on the chaotic Donald Trump presidency, it was a new dawn for all Americans and the rest of the world as images of the inauguration were beamed across TV networks. “I will be president for all Americans,” Biden declared on the heavily secured hallowed grounds of Capitol Hill as he delivered perhaps his most important speech yet as the 46th president of the United States of America. This is the same Capitol that was desecrated by a ravaging mob of domestic terrorists two weeks earlier over ridiculous claims of a “stolen” election.
Biden alluded to a previous declaration during his campaign that he would be president for the “Blue and Red States” of America. “Without unity, there’s no peace,” he said in his inauguration address. “The will of the people was heard and heeded,” Biden added. At the end of the day, it was democracy that prevailed on account of America’s strong institutions and great minds – including some Republicans – that stood by the constitution they swore to uphold.
America, the beacon of democracy and leader of the free world, had never sunk so low in more than a century. Former President Trump did not attend the inauguration – he opted to side step a great and important American tradition due to his own hubris which eventually consumed him, but I do not think he was missed. He probably would have been a pathetic sight.
After being the first president to be impeached twice in American history having been accused of “incitement of insurrection”, an impeachment trial in the Senate that may damage his political career further is looming large. There are wider implications for Trump if he is convicted, part of which includes being banned from holding any public office in future. By removing Trump from office, America has redeemed its image, Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka said in a statement.
Former presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and their wives honoured Biden and Harris by attending the inauguration – it is a tradition that represents the best of America. Congratulatory messages have poured in from world leaders and they essentially echoed the same sentiments: bring back the America that we used to know.
The central theme of President Biden’s messages all along had been anchored on uniting Americans and it was not different on inauguration day. It will be a major and historic achievement if he can pull it off. The significance of Biden’s message is at the heart of a deeply divided America that needs healing urgently. President Biden’s emergence as President of the United States couldn’t have come at a more auspicious moment; the timing is perfect.
Biden is America’s destiny helper. “Unity is the path forward for America,” he said for the umpteenth time. Biden wants all Americans – irrespective of political affiliation, creed, race, region, religion, orientation — to join hands together to reset the country for greatness without any cloud of uncertainty, hate, racial bigotry, violence and domestic terrorism.
Through a bipartisan approach between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, Biden hopes to change the course of the country in order to achieve his goals. He hit the ground running immediately after the inauguration by signing 17 Executive Orders on Covid-19, immigration, environment and a slew of other important issues.
From all indications, Biden is sincere and he can be trusted. Age, wisdom and experience are clearly on his side and the prospects of a transparent and honest leadership that Biden will provide with support from vice president Harris – now the highest ranking woman in America — and the entire cabinet have created their own excitement in Washington and beyond.
A long time ago, Donald Trump saw Biden as a potential threat to his ambition for a second term in office. It explained why the Trump campaign – in their attempt to damage Biden’s public image and reduce his chance of success at the primaries — activated the Biden-Ukraine conspiracy theory which centred on false allegations against Joe Biden.
It was alleged that Biden, as vice president under President Barack Obama, engaged in corrupt activities. That was a lie manufactured from the pit of hell by Trump and his acolytes. To date, there’s no evidence that Hunter, Joe Biden’s second son who served on the Board of Burisma, a Ukrainian owned private energy company, was involved in any fraudulent activity.
It was a smear campaign that was targeted at Joe Biden and it was the same tactic that was used by the Trump campaign against Hilary Clinton who was the Democratic presidential candidate and Trump’s challenger in 2016. It was a straight contest, alright and the polls gave Clinton the advantage. Her chances were bright. Clinton was confident and hopeful she would win the election. In fact, it looked like she was already on her way to the White House. Then what happened? The story of Clinton’s official emails on a private server became the sticking issue that trended and dominated the headlines with the Russian connection to boot.
The emails episode was particularly damaging to Clinton’s campaign and diminished her chances of winning the election. Trust is an important brand asset and once it is violated, your audience feels betrayed and looks in another direction.
A look at Biden’s political career shows that he has always distinguished himself as a forthright politician with integrity and a man of deep faith in spite of his personal tragedies. Over the last 50 years, Biden displayed exemplary courage and character right from when he was a young Senator.
Trump on the other hand was master of conspiracy theories threatening fire and brimstone from his bully pulpit at the White House. The whole world watched in horror and sometimes amazement at the unfolding daily reality TV stunts from Washington. He was never tired of searching for skeletons in other people’s cupboards when he had a lorry load of skeletons himself. Please call to mind the battle of wits over his tax records or pardons that he dished out to his friends and associates in his final days in office. He succeeded in creating “Two Americas” in the United States, never minding the consequential damages.
With over 74 million votes, Trump lied and deceived his base and right wing extremists, insisting that he won the presidential election. He bluntly refused to concede defeat; deligitimised Biden’s victory with his hurtful rhetorics and reluctantly vacated the White House.
The new season in America is no longer about Trump but a Biden presidency and there’s so much work to be done. Biden is moving ahead with grace and he set the right tone with his inaugural speech which was oxygenated by the powerful presentation of Armanda Gorman, the 23 years old poet and activist from Los Angeles.
Gorman gave a mind blowing recital of her inauguration poem that touched the hearts and souls – without any doubt – of those who watched her. She’s the first person to be named a National Youth Poet Laureate with a keen interest on issues such as feminism, oppression, race and marginalisation. Hopefully, her dream of becoming President of America in 2036 will manifest.
In her recital that was like a soothing and therapeutic balm to calm frayed nerves, Gorman, an extra-ordinary genius, acknowledged that America was too big to fail but the threats – coming in different forms — were always present. Her wish is for all Americans to live together in peace and harmony and not to sow division. The insurrection at the Capitol to subvert the will of Americans in a free and fair election was the outcome of a divided America instigated by Trump. It was the ugly face of America that was rightly condemned and rejected.
President Biden is mindful of the cry for racial justice which constantly polarises America. In making his appointments, he recognised the importance of a diverse cabinet as part of his reset agenda and my view is that he scored the bull’s eye in this regard.
The decency and dignity that was missing under the previous administration will be restored, Biden also pledged during his address. The historic inauguration was celebrated with music and fireworks signaling a new era in America. In spite of the challenge of hosting in-person events, we witnessed star studded virtual performances by Andra Day, John Legend, Bon Jovi, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, Foo Fighters amongst others. It was Katy Perry’s song, “Firework”, which set off the spectacular fireworks that illuminated the skies over Washington.
Former President Obama in a moment of reflection said Americans are strong and tough people, adding that they can get through any hardship. Obama was right. Challenges posed by Covid-19 with over 400,000 deaths, economic hardships with millions of job losses, long queues at food banks and evictions scare shows the times are truly tough and they are indicative of the need for a quick reset by the Biden administration.
Instead of “isolationalism and exceptionalism” that were often touted as the pillars of Trump’s America First policy, the signs are evident that a Biden presidency will be broad in scope and engage with the rest of the world. His first major action in the Oval Office was to reverse a Trump decision on the Paris Agreement, a United Nations Framework on Climate Change, and USA’s membership of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Biden also needs to assure Americans who believed unfounded conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud that he is their president, and no one is taking away “their country” from them. They must understand that President Biden is sincere and means well. Going by his track record, Biden truly wants the best for America. This is not be the time for anger, bitterness and divisive rhetorics. The uncivil war, according to Biden, must end. America is a great country and a land of opportunities and it will always be so.
Biden’s pitch about unity that breeds trust must be re-enforced through strategic communications. He should take Gorman’s hint and strive to forge a union with a purpose for all Americans, and not a union that is perfect. Congratulations President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as you both rebuild America.
- Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)