How Biden Can Unite America
Joe Biden has become president of the United States at the most divided time in the country’s living memory, and he has marketed himself as a unifying figure, stating at his inauguration that he wants to end America’s ‘uncivil war’. His first 24 hours as president, however, make me doubt whether he will accomplish this, and feel more like a victory lap than an attempt at nation-wide reconciliation.
Biden signed a number of executive orders shortly after entering office, which indicate that his political worldview is firmly aligned with the progressive orthodoxies in regard to critical race theory, globalisation, climate change and immigration. Many are relieved by this and view it as a return to normalcy, after four turbulent years of Trump. In the past days, there has been a collective sigh of relief from the liberal political and media classes, who view Trump and Trumpism as anomalies in world history, that surely will never be repeated again.
Democracy has triumphed, they say, and now the inevitable march towards the ideal society can continue; the ideal society, of course, being defined in relation to their own political beliefs. And anyone who opposes this march, and these beliefs is not only wrong, but evil, for they stand in the way of utopia, and therefore they are worthy of scorn and derision.
The problem with this progressive worldview, is that it is exactly what got Trump elected in the first place. The Democrats seem to have learned none of the valuable lessons from their defeat in 2016, one of which is that characterising half the country as, in Hillary Clinton’s words, a ‘basket of deplorables’, for the simple reason that they hold different political and moral beliefs, is a recipe for division.
It is bound to result, in the long run, in either tyranny and domination, or defeat. Instead, they have taken their electoral victory as evidence that their worldview is morally superior and that their divisive tactics are justified.
This moralisation of politics, which Biden shows no sign of turning from, is a major humanitarian failure, as it denies the reality that that good and evil do not cut across political lines, but through every single human heart. Furthermore, in the words of the 19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, who was well acquainted with political utopianism, it is very easy to love mankind in general, by passing progressive legislation and demonising those who oppose it, but very difficult to love humans in particular, recognising that someone can disagree with you politically and still be a decent person.
If Biden wants to unite America, he should put aside partisan progressive causes, which aim to save all of humanity, and instead concentrate on loving each individual human- even those with whom he disagrees. In practical terms, this means standing up for free speech and ending the marginalisation of those with reasoned political views that are deemed unacceptable by those power, a process which has only been accelerated by big tech censorship. Big tech should be regulated so that freedom of speech and expression are re-affirmed, not only as dispassionate legal principles, but ecstatically, as foundational moral principles that facilitate robust public debate, and actual progress.
Additionally, Biden rightly denounced white supremacy in his inauguration speech, but he should go further and denounce all forms of identity politics on the left and right. Identity politics is always evil and bigoted, as it aims to judge people according to the groups they belong to rather than by their essential individual characteristics.
In the past nine months America has seen violent uprisings from both the far left and far right. If Biden doesn’t put actual unity above the march towards a progressive utopia, which history has shown can never be reached anyway, he will indeed end the uncivil war in America. But he may replace it with something far worse.