It was well worth the wait. Joseph A. Biden Jr. has fairly won the presidency of the United States, thanks to the more than 74 million Americans who heard the better angels of our nature, as Abraham Lincoln urged long ago.
In Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, America has chosen unity over division, hope over hatred, competence over cunning, faith over fear, dignity over disgrace, compassion over cruelty, calm over chaos and truth over falsehood.
Fittingly, it was Pennsylvania that sealed their victory. Pennsylvania is the birthplace of American independence, of the Constitution and of our next president, who will restore the Constitution to its rightful place of honor in the White House.
Biden now holds the record for the popular vote, with 74,872,687. His appeal was evident Saturday as overjoyed people poured into the streets, tooted car horns and called like-minded friends and family, delighted that their four-year national nightmare is almost over.
Yet 70,602,144 voters chose President Trump, a record for a losing candidate. And today, a good many of our non-like-minded friends and family are feeling the pain of deep loss.
For many Trump supporters, it wasn’t the man, so much as his policies. They’d say they didn’t always like what he said or did, but that they were concerned about Democrats taking the country too far left. Even moderate Democrats expressed concern after the party’s first primary debate.
But that is not Joe Biden. He’s never been a “socialist.” He’s never coddled dictators. And he’s never wanted to defund the police. Biden is a centrist who understands that a great many Americans feel left behind. And he has a proven track record of working with Republicans to get things done.
“I campaigned as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president,” he promised after the race was called on Saturday.
“We may be opponents — but we are not enemies,” he said earlier.
We understand the despair that sets in when your candidate loses, but it’s in the national interest for Trump voters to also heed their better angels. Emphasizing anger gets our country nowhere.
Yet Biden and Harris face a bitterly divided nation, a Senate that may remain under Republican control and an incumbent who is disparaging public confidence in the election. Only an hour before the race was called, Trump took to Twitter to declare “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!”
Twitter rightly flagged this and other Trump tweets this week for making “potentially misleading claims about an election.” It’s also gratifying to see the broadcast media finally tune him out when he lies, and to hear Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, John Santorum and a few other prominent Republicans speak out against him.
Still, some of Trump’s diehard allies are egging him on, even speculating about getting Republican legislatures to overturn the people’s votes, a strategy more appropriate to a military dictatorship. The conduct of Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz and a few others borders on disloyalty to the Constitution. So does the silence of the many Republicans who are afraid to speak out for what’s right.
Ten presidents accepted defeat without throwing tantrums. So has every other contender.
After losing the Supreme Court battle over Florida’s hanging chads 20 years ago, Vice President Al Gore presided in dignity over the joint session of Congress that declared George W. Bush the winner. Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, famously left a gracious letter in the Resolute desk for Bill Clinton, who had defeated him. In 2008, John McCain’s concession speech to Barack Obama was a thing of beauty.
In Biden, there will soon be a decent man at the bully pulpit. He will remind Americans of how proper American presidents speak and act. He will do his best to rebuild “the twin pillars of our democracy — truth and trust,” as the New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman phrased it.
We will again have a president who respects Americans of every political conviction, and who respects NATO, the World Trade Organization and other alliances we built with American blood and treasure that won the Cold War.
Our new president will respect science. He will have America rejoin the Paris Accord, deal with climate change as an existential threat to the human race, and reverse the Trump administration’s reckless campaign to destroy or weaken the regulations that have protected consumers, the environment and public health. He has pledged to reunite the parents and children whom Trump separated at the Mexican border. He will keep the Dreamers from being deported to countries they do not know.
Through control of the Executive Branch, Biden should be able to restore the independence, the integrity, the morale and the depleted staffs of the Centers for Disease Control, Environmental Protection Agency and other essential services that Trump has sublimated to politics. Before this president, they enjoyed respect worldwide. Now, one CDC insider tells us, it could take 10 years to fully rebuild what was until recently the world’s premier health agency.
But such vital Biden initiatives as Medicare expansion, tax reform, rebuilding infrastructure and minimizing the use of fossil fuels are not goals that he can accomplish without the cooperation of both houses of Congress.
Control of the Senate now depends on a January 5 runoff for Georgia’s two seats. That election will be as hard fought, as expensive and as intensely watched as the struggle for the White House itself.
The success of Biden’s presidency depends to a large extent on whether his party earns a tie in the Senate, where Vice President Harris — the first woman and first woman of color to hold that office — would have the deciding vote, or remains down by one or two. Mitch McConnell, the hyper-partisan Republican leader, declared at the beginning of Obama’s term that he meant to make him a one-term president. Can Biden expect better from him?
There is no way to gloss over what Republican control of the Senate would mean for public health, especially if the Supreme Court, with the vote of the three justices Trump appointed, overturns the Affordable Care Act.
So much now depends on Georgia. Both parties know that.
The Republicans basking in the glow of their congressional triumphs need to consider that the public’s patience with obstructionism may not be infinite. At some point, voters will tire of seeing a good president treated badly and the nation’s needs sacrificed to spiteful politics.
It would behoove Marco Rubio to remember that he won’t have Trump at the top of the ballot when his Senate term expires in two years.
Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara, Dan Sweeney, Steve Bousquet and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson.
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