CLEVELAND — Wednesday morning, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol that just two weeks earlier had been the scene of a destructive, rampaging mob, incoming President Joe Biden delivered a speech that was clearly intended to soothe and inspire.
Soothing and inspiring a country as profoundly divided as ours will take more than a few happy words, but give Biden credit for having at it with the old college try, superficial though it might have been.
If you didn’t see it (and I know that a lot of you refused to watch), you should have. Inauguration Day is an occasion that is uniquely American … signifying, even in these discordant times, the peaceful transfer of power and authority. And, at least for a day – hope.
So I’m saying the same thing I said four years ago: I didn’t vote for him – but he’s the president now and will be, God willing, for the next four years. The least we can all do is listen to what he’s got to say and watch what he’s going to do, and hope that at least some of it falls in line with what we think is best for the country.
Wednesday’s ceremony also marked the historic moment of inaugurating in Vice President Kamala Harris the first Black, female, Asian-American to win a national election. (I’d have preferred Nikki Haley as the first female Asian-American on that stage, as the elected president, but there’s still time for that.)
Biden’s speech, as most analysts agreed, did not contain quotable phrases that will echo down through the decades like those of John F. Kennedy or Franklin Roosevelt. But he did say things worth hearing, and remembering.
“To all those who did not support us, let me say this: Hear me out as we move forward,” he said. “Take a measure of me and my heart. And if you still disagree, so be it.”
“Yet hear me clearly,” he said. “Disagreement must not lead to disunion. And I pledge this to you: I will be a president for all Americans. I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.”
Well … OK. I get it. He didn’t mean he would support our ideas. He’ll fight hard for us in a way that he thinks is best for us – not necessarily for what we think is best for us.
But still – after Biden dispensed with a couple of hours of ceremonial duties, it was hard to watch as he went into his new residence to sign a stack of executive orders, directives, requests and memoranda, and pronouncements that could serve as a working list of the primary reasons 74 million Americans did not support him:
• He ordered construction halted on the wall intended to stem illegal immigration into the United States from Mexico, and undid President Donald Trump’s efforts to expand immigration enforcement in the U.S.
• He reversed the Trump administration’s restrictions on entry from seven Muslim-majority countries that were enacted over concerns about terrorism and poor cooperation from those country’s officials.
• He vacated a Trump order that noncitizens be excluded from the 2020 Census count for apportionment of congressional representatives.
* He abandoned construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, thereby hanging our Canadian ally out to dry and costing U.S. construction workers 10,000 jobs and the country’s access to Canadian tar sands crude oil, with no appreciable positive ecological impact.
* He announced that the United States would not be completing the withdrawal from the World Health Organization that then-President Trump had initiated last year, when Trump also withdrew financial support following WHO’s acquiescence to China and refusal to hold that country accountable for not doing enough to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
* He announced that the United States would be rejoining the Paris climate accord, wherein we will once again unilaterally pledge to abide by greenhouse gas levels that will be devastating to our economy while our international competitors (China, Russia, India) ignore them.
* He rescinded Trump’s 1776 Commission for U.S. schools, which had begun as a counterpoint to The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” an effort to teach children a version of history concentrating on slavery and discrimination rather than the freedoms outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
* He fired National Labor Relations Board general counsel Peter Robb 10 months before the end of his term, a constitutionally questionable sop to union leadership that appears to be a harbinger of presidential support for reintroduction this legislative session of the euphemistically named Protecting The Right to Organize Act. Should that become law, it would, among other things, nullify right-to-work laws (that protect workers from being forced to join a union) in all 27 states that have them, and would eliminate secret ballots in organizing efforts in certain cases, leaving workers vulnerable to bullying by union organizers. The 2019 bill passed the U.S. House last year, leaving a 2021 bill’s future in the balance of whether the Senate abandons the ability to filibuster legislative issues.
* He has started the process of raising the minimum wage for federal workers to $15, and called for a national minimum wage at that rate – a move that will destroy small businesses across the land and drastically reduce employment opportunities for entry-level workers and college students at businesses that will have to drastically reduce their workforce.
There was, and will be, lots more, as the battle to end the Senate filibuster heats up (stay strong, Joe Manchin!); the Washington, D.C., statehood issue comes to the fore; opportunities for judicial nominations open up; and Biden seeks to reinstitute the horrible Iran nuclear deal.
Here’s the point, though: None of the above should surprise anyone. As former President Barack Obama and Sen. Mitch McConnell, among many others, have observed, elections have consequences. Joe Biden won the election, and the people who opposed him will have to suffer those consequences.
But he will be the president for all Americans only technically. Let’s not imagine that he will fight hard for the people who did not support him.
He won’t. He will, in fact, fight against us, and much of what we hold dear. And the people who did support him wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ted Diadiun is a member of the editorial board of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer. He can be reached at: