It’s been said that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Joe Biden has announced he wants to begin the moral equivalent of a journey of a least a thousand miles.
Biden has said he wants to “unite us here at home,” and to “put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature [and] see each other again.” He’s said he was the Democratic nominee for president but intends to be all America’s president. One’s tempted to say “In your dreams, Joe! It’s not gonna happen!” But perhaps there are steps Biden can take to begin his quest for unity. They probably won’t get him too far, but they may prove to be a good beginning. Besides, he’s got to start somewhere. In essence, Biden should impartially condemn nasty and divisive rhetoric from whatever source, impartially suppress violence from whatever source, and impartially assign credit where logic dictates credit is due.
First, Biden should have Sister Souljah moments. In other words, Biden should not hesitate to criticize, when appropriate, remarks made by his supporters against his opponents.
Sister Souljah was a Black rapper who, commenting on race riots in 1992, said, “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?” Bill Clinton sharply and publicly reprimanded her remarks. He thereby won much praise for daring to publicly criticize a Black, not withstanding his need for Black support for his presidential campaign. Some criticized him for waiting until he was assured of the Democratic presidential nomination before unloading on Sister Souljah, but he still risked losing necessary Black support for the fall campaign whose outcome was still in doubt. Besides, Sister Souljah’s remarks were cruel and stupid and she deserved a good thumping.
In that spirit, Joe Biden should not hesitate to publicly slap down hard any celebrity who continues to make the sort of cracks made during Trump’s term. You’ll recall that Madonna said she dreamt of blowing up the White House. Johnny Depp wished for the second coming of John Wilkes Booth. Kathy Griffith brandished a model of Trump’s decapitated head. Robert DeNiro wished Trump would be covered in excrement (compared to the others, DeNiro was being restrained). Should anyone publicly suggest again that Trump or anyone else be blown up, gunned down, beheaded, or given a bath with his own excrement or anyone else’s, Joe should condemn those remarks clearly, plainly, without hesitation—no matter who says them. And should he develop a reputation for opposing the nastiness of his supporters, he will be more effective in rebuking his opponents as well.
Second, Biden should not hesitate to condemn the violence, if any, committed by popular demonstrations, no matter what cause or ideology is thereby being promoted. Last summer, Democratic mayors and governors stupidly and timidly stood by and did nothing while Antifa and BLM protests (frequently in response to unjustifiable police shootings of Blacks) got out of hand. Right-wing vigilantes rushed in to fill the void left by those who abandoned their official responsibilities. Right wing groups like Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys arose. Joe, to his credit, spoke out against leftist violence during the campaign. As President he should not hesitate to insist that Mayors and Governors, regardless of party, exhibit initiative and backbone in directing their police forces to crack down hard on any protests, whether by Antifa or the Proud Boys (who’ve boasted of stealing signs and banners from Black churches) or any other nut group that commits violence and thus threatens the public order.
Third, Biden should attribute at least some of the credit for the success, so far, of Operation Warp Speed to President Trump. Throughout the pandemic it’s been standard operating procedure to assert that whatever Trump said or did was wrong: He banned Chinese flights to America? Dr. Fauci approved, but Biden said Trump was being racist and xenophobic. He innocently asked about possible cures? He was pushing quack nostrums. He expressed optimism that the pandemic would burn itself out soon? He was in denial. He promised a vaccine by the end of the year? He was crazy.
And yet we have two vaccines becoming available, with more on the way. Pfizer’s vaccine was developed without federal aid, but with the assurance that millions of doses would be purchased with billions of federal dollars. Moderna’s vaccine and those which will soon be available through other companies have been financed at least in part by the Trump administration.
Granted, it’s difficult for Biden and his supporters to conceive of, much less admit, that Trump actually got something right. Indeed, during the campaign, Biden and Harris were saying that even if a vaccine was produced by the Trump administration before the end of the year, it should not be taken because the speed with which it was produced meant normal safety standards could not possibly have been applied. Yet so far both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines seem safe and effective. Both Biden and Mike Pence have taken their shots. Since Trump gets blamed for everything bad that happened on his watch, why shouldn’t he get credit when something goes right?
No guarantee is offered that these proposals will, in and of themselves, produce all the progress Biden might want to make in his quest for unity. But should he take these first steps, he may make some progress, and he will merit the support and praise of all Americans of good will, whatever their respective political persuasions.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.