On November 7, Joe Biden strode up to the podium, beaming, to declare victory in the 2020 Presidential election. He thanked his supporters and touched on one of the themes of his campaigns, unity, declaring, “I pledge to be a President who seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see Red states and Blue states, only sees the United States, and work with all my heart, with the confidence of the whole people, to win the confidence of all of you.”
The aspiration to unify is important in a President; they are, along with the Vice President, the only nationally elected figure. In light of the recent polarization of everyday American life, it’s healthy for those such as the President-elect to hope for unity.
One has to wonder what Biden means by it, however.
Later in the speech, he reached out to “all those of you who voted for President Trump” to “listen to each other again…to give each other a chance;” declaring, “If we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.” A chance for what? To what end should Republicans and Democrats strive to cooperate?
Vice President Biden has bragged of uniting the Democratic party behind a historically progressive agenda; surely he doesn’t mean that conservatives ought to support that? Perhaps conservatives would be less skeptical about “unity” if it wasn’t so plain what, at least some prominent, Democrats mean by it.
On November 7th, First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted, “Let’s remember that tens of millions of people voted for the status quo, even when it meant supporting lies, hate, chaos, and division. We’ve got a lot of work to do to reach out to these folks in the years ahead and connect with them on what unites us.” She sought to marshal opposition to the Trump Administration’s agenda for these past four years, as one would expect from a loyal Democrat who disagreed with it.
It’s transparently partisan, however, to say that severe dissent ought to be a price Republicans pay for unity when Obama has encouraged her followers not to pay it over these past four years. What’s more, it’s at once condescending and confusing to say that her supporters need to reach out to those who voted for the Trump/Pence ticket as being on the side of “lies, hate, chaos and division” and on that basis reach out for common ground.
Obama is not the only Democrat, or even the only Democratic political spouse, to have expressed this attitude. During the campaign season, Chasten Buttigieg tweeted out something similar, with the apparent object that if only progressives’ Trump-supporting relatives would see the other side, they would see the wickedness of their ways and support Biden. In these statements, and many more like them, the Democrats tell the whole story: they do not want unity. They want unity behind them.
Now that they have won, they expect it.
What of the man himself? In his 2012 re-election bid, Biden told a Black audience that the Republicans would “put y’all back in chains.” In his 2020 acceptance speech at the DNC, he described his candidacy as the “path of hope and light” against that of “shadow and suspicion”. Someone who has put his elections in such stark terms, in both 2012 and 2020, ought to think about what kind of unity he can reasonably expect of his opponents, those re-chainers and shadowy folk. Biden is by many accounts a good man in his personal life. Anecdotes abound of his acts of personal kindness, but in his professional life, he is certainly guilty of his own slicing and dicing.
Let’s be frank: elections are not about uniting the American People; they are about dividing them up in electorally advantageous ways. Electoral College aside, Biden is on track to receive roughly 51% of the vote. Roughly half of the country supported Biden, roughly half opposed him. This is not unity.
None of this is to say that Biden does not deserve broad support in other ways. There is a tradition of praying for the President as old as the Union itself.
When conservatives do seek to undermine and obstruct his policy agenda, the effort ought to be done in good faith. They should root for his success and his good judgement, and congratulate him when they manifest. We should “give him a chance” to surprise, or even to authentically unite us, but nobody ought to confuse accepting a new President with forgiving and forgetting or falling in line and shutting up.
We owe it to ourselves to never do that.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.