“We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility. Much to repair. Much to restore. Much to heal. Much to build.” So said new, albeit old, President Joe Biden, speaking at his inauguration on January 20 last year. He promised he would strive “to bring that most elusive of things in a democracy: unity. Unity.” Biden likes to repeat words to show he means them.
All presidents insist they will work “for all Americans” and undo the damage of the past. In 2008, Barack Obama offered “hope and change” after George W Bush. Donald Trump, for his part, vowed to end “this American carnage” after Obama. But, as we all know, Trump’s presidency ended in carnage. Two weeks before Biden’s inauguration, a barmy mob, convinced that an evil political elite had stolen the election from them, broke into the Capitol in Washington, DC. That shocking event, the anniversary of which was marked last Thursday, disturbed not just America, but a whole world already rocked by the Covid pandemic. The most powerful democracy on the planet appeared to have eaten itself alive. America looked a mess.
Biden arrived in the White House, then, not on a wave of optimism but a swell of relief. There was some overheated talk in Democratic and anti-Trump media circles about him being the 21st century’s answer to the great reformer Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but on the whole nobody expected him to be a great president. He just wasn’t Trump. Journalists defied the economics of their trade by celebrating his “boringness” in contrast to the four-year crazy news blizzard that was the outgoing Commander-in-Chief. Things must now get better, surely?
Instead, one year on, Biden’s solemn pledge to unite the country, from from Rural Louisiana to the streets of Detroit, from the blue-collar rust belt to tech-bro San Francisco, seems long forgotten. The liberal media – around the world – spent four years blaming Trump for the dangerous schisms in the US. Today, the same commentators have fallen quiet on those same divisions, which seem to be getting wider under Biden.
Trump is no longer in charge, but the US has not come together as promised. And far from bringing order to the chaos, Biden may have made most of America’s problems worse.