Joe Biden

I’m glad Joe Biden believes in ‘unity.’ Even when I don’t.

Calling us to the next objective, even whether it is nonsense, may be good.

(Patrick Semansky | AP picture)

President Joe Biden speaks in the course of the 59th Presidential Inauguration on the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Uh-oh. Joe Biden is speaking unity once more.

It got here final week at a CNN city corridor in Milwaukee in response to a query about how he’ll deliver People collectively. “I take problem with what everyone says concerning the division,” he replied. “The nation will not be divided. You go on the market and have a look and discuss to folks, you have got fringes on each ends, nevertheless it’s not practically as divided as we make it out to be.”
Common readers might be accustomed to my tackle unity, final supplied in January when Biden made a plea for it in his inaugural deal with. I think about it, at this stage, a pipe dream.

As you wouldn’t ask a battered spouse to hunt unity with the husband who beat her, you can’t ask folks of colour to hunt it with bigotry or Muslims with Islamophobia or LGBTQ People with homophobia or undocumented employees with xenophobia or fact-based People with utter hogwash. But bigotry, Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia and utter hogwash are, more and more, the one issues the political proper has to supply.

So from the place I sit, Biden speaks nonsense. However possibly that’s not the worst factor on the planet.

I’m remembering one other president who spoke nonsense. This was on March 4, 1933. Having simply taken the oath of workplace, Franklin Roosevelt confronted a nation mired in financial collapse — the unemployment price close to 25 p.c, GDP down by 30 p.c, one in 5 banks failing — and promised a revival. “The one factor we now have to concern,” he asserted, “is concern itself.”

And sure, the phrases are stirring. But when you consider it, they’re additionally patently ridiculous. People, in any case, had loads to concern: joblessness, homelessness, starvation, and the prospect of nationwide collapse topping the listing. But Roosevelt’s phrases rallied and impressed a dispirited nation. Nearly 90 years later, they provide a helpful problem to skeptics like me, a reminder to not underestimate the facility of presidential optimism. Or, certainly, the facility of a president’s character.

When Invoice Clinton was pilloried for sexually exploiting a naive younger lady after which mendacity about it, it was widespread to listen to his defenders opine that it didn’t matter what sort of man a president was, as long as he did the correct factor politically. As Barbra Streisand famously snipped, “We elected a president, not a pope.”

If the final 4 years achieved nothing else, they need to have put completely to relaxation the notion that presidential character is unimportant. The type of particular person a president is has lots to say concerning the type of nation we might be. It’s his or her job to make entreaty to the most effective in us, the very best and most noble in us, to talk into existence that which is unlikely — certainly, that which can even be, or at the very least appear to be, patently ridiculous. That’s how Lincoln gained a civil warfare, Roosevelt overcame an important melancholy and Kennedy despatched males to the moon.

The reminiscence of all that imposes upon me a sure duality of thoughts when Biden insists, in opposition to all of the proof of our eyes, our hearts and our logic, on American unity. On the one hand, you recall the march by Charlottesville, the breaching of the Capitol, the spinelessness, the faithlessness, the litany of lies and alibis that continues proper as much as the current second, and the concept of unity with these folks — sure, they’ve grow to be “these folks” in my thoughts — appears delusional, far-fetched, a mirage of shadow and smoke. Then again, it feels undeniably … proper to as soon as once more hear a president name us towards greater objective.

So sure, a duality of thoughts. I don’t imagine unity is feasible.

However I’m glad Joe Biden does.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. lpitts@miamiherald.com

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