Editorial: A new, and better, chapter for America

  • President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater, in Wilmington, Del., on Jan. 14. AP

Published: 1/20/2021 6:10:06 AM

Today is inauguration day. There will be glances, and some cold hard looks, at the past, but now is a time to look forward.

Joe Biden, a new president, one well-known to most Americans and with more experience in public office than any of his predecessors, is being sworn in today. The event is a great American exhalation. The storm has passed. The nation is still standing, its institutions a bit battered and worse for wear but strong and poised to move ahead.

Politics at its most basic level communicates in slogans. You’ve heard most of them and the one put forth by the incoming president’s campaign is “Build Back Better.” Okay. Fine as far as it goes, but we would prefer a simpler one that declares that the differences that divide us really are much smaller than what unites us.

Slogans are hokey. We get that. But the mantra for the next four years should be “Team America.” Victory for this team consists of preserving, extending, and strengthening the world’s longest living democracy.

We are all, whatever our skin color, religion, or political persuasion, on the same team. So if you are politically aggrieved, please soften your angry heart. The wheel turns. The pendulum swings. Putting aside our differences for the good of the nation is the essence of patriotism.

President Biden will face more immediate challenges than any American leader since Franklin Roosevelt. First on his agenda is an all-out effort to combat the pandemic that has crippled the economy and cost some 400,000 lives. The COVID-19 virus, as many have said, is non-partisan. It kills Republican, Democrat, and independent alike. In a miracle of modern science, highly effective vaccines were created in record time. The rush to distribute them, to convince the skeptical that they are safe, to encourage social distancing and the wearing of masks, should be a bipartisan one.

The fastest way to rekindle the economy and reduce unemployment is to make it safe to go out to dinner again and to shop and gather without fear. Until that day comes, many people are in need, and because we are all in this together, deserve help.

We support the new president’s plan to increase unemployment benefits, assist small businesses, prevent evictions, and stimulate the economy.

In his cabinet appointments Biden is valuing experience and professionalism over ideology. It will be the most diverse cabinet in U.S. history, with women filling half the positions. It is a first step toward healing the nation’s divisions.

Stopping, and then reversing, climate change caused by burning fossil fuels should be a bipartisan effort. The future of everyone’s children, grandchildren, and perhaps even today’s young adults depends on eliminating carbon emissions and cleaning up the mess that’s been made of the planet.

Rebuilding and modernizing the nation’s neglected infrastructure, not just roads, bridges, ports, water systems, and outmoded electric grids, but high-speed, cheap, universal internet service, charging networks that will speed the transition to electric vehicles, and enough housing to end shortages, benefits everyone. It makes America stronger. Support is bipartisan and action overdue. Rebuilding will create jobs, including jobs lost to outsourcing and automation. Biden is right to insist, at least until the economic ship is righted, on a “Buy American” approach to federal spending.

Both sides of the aisle should support these initiatives: Combating COVID, assisting those in need, addressing climate change, healing divisions of race and politics, and rebuilding the infrastructure. More needs to be done, of course. But success working together on things both parties already largely agree on will build on itself and make it possible to find accord on tougher issues. On that list: tax reform to address income inequality, immigration reform, affordable higher education, reducing the federal deficit and debt, and rebuilding relationships with historic allies.

These are, indeed, strange times. But the wheel turns. The pendulum swings. May it now swing toward peace and progress.

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