A few weeks ago, a friend asked, “Do you think things will be better as soon as Biden takes over?” I replied, “No, but things will start to get better.”
I remember the soaring feeling of watching Bill Clinton take the oath of office in January, 1993, marking the end of the Ronald Reagan era (which had been extended four years under Bush 41). I remember an even grander feeling on January 20, 2009, when Barack Obama took the oath of office and the Dick Cheney era ended. I also remember the depression that set in four years ago when a lying con man began his reign of terror upon this land.
The inauguration of a new president is never like flipping a switch — it’s more like a dimmer that gets turned up or down slowly. Accordingly, it will take time for Biden and his leadership team to erase the horrible policies of the Trump era. Some he can do right away by executive order, but much of it will have to be done legislatively, which means working through the mire that is Congress. Even with Democrats in control of both houses, change will not be as swift — nor as complete — as many of us would like. It will take patience.
Nonetheless, Biden’s inauguration means that the bully pulpit no longer belongs to a bully.
Rather, we’ll have a president who actually cares about people, who empathizes with those who’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19 and the millions who have been forced out of work during this pandemic. Yet the divisions that have been exploited and intensified by Trump and his acolytes will still remain, and there are no easy answers on how to heal that national wound.
One way would be for mainstream media to no longer give any platform to the professional liars and deniers who had too-easy access during the last four years. I hope that, after the events of January 6th, there’s been a recognition in newsrooms and editorial offices that allowing falsehoods to be spread via mass media helped lead us to the schism we live in the midst of. Yes, social media algorithms as well as right-wing media played a large part, but when more trusted outlets continued to point their cameras and microphones at the faces of people who spouted “alternate facts,” they helped drive the wedge deeper.
Don’t mistake my words as an attack on the press. There’s been too much of that in the last four years from an administration that didn’t want facts reported and falsehoods exposed. Reporters and editors and photographers around the world have done a tremendous job documenting the rise of authoritarianism in the US and elsewhere. Too many of them had their lives threatened by blind, ignorant followers of despots and mad men like the American Liar-In-Chief, who told his fellow citizens that journalists are the enemy of the people. In his mind, only sycophantic coverage was acceptable, and anything else had to be denounced. But with his megaphone muted now, here’s hoping that those honest information providers can get on with doing their jobs without fear of retribution from the loudmouth-in-charge and the propaganda machine that propped him up.
I also hope this marks the end of stories that try to help us understand the mind of the MAGA cult. I think we pretty much understand that it has never been about being economically disenfranchised, as there are plenty of Biden supporters who can’t pay the rent or find full-time work, too. Rather, it’s about consuming a diet of misinformation from talk radio/TV hosts who have no qualms about repeating unprovable claims ad nauseam, violent extremists and domestic terrorists, politicians who pander to the lowest common denominator, and straight-up racism.
Let’s instead focus on the mindset of Americans who would never think of attacking the Capitol or threatening the lives of people whose opinions we disagree with. Let’s elevate those who are making our country better, not worse. Let’s celebrate science and reason and rational thinking. Let’s honor those who have developed vaccines to quash the pandemic, the medical professionals who inoculate us, and the logistics experts who ensure distribution. Let’s look forward to a White House that hosts cultural events again — without them becoming super-spreaders of coronavirus.
Best of all, let’s enjoy that we can now wake up each day without wondering what vitriolic lies, attacks, and absolute nonsense our Commander-In-Chief has spewed while we slept. The irony is that, if successful, this change of leaders and implementation of more effective policies will make life better not just for you and me, but for those who refuse to accept Biden’s presidency as legitimate, too.
It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen in an instant. But, as Sam Cooke once sang, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”