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Finding reason for optimism on historic day

Even in the most difficult of times — and these are among the most difficult in the nation’s 245-year history — the inauguration of new president is a time for optimism. It should arrive with hope that the new president will succeed in his efforts to improve the country.

Though we had strongly opposed his election — and considered some of his rhetoric and propensity to lie when convenient dangerous — we editorially applauded and wished President Trump success when, four long years ago, he vowed to “build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.”

It suggested perhaps a jobs program. This was not your typical Republican presidential inaugural speech. But Trump was not your typical Republican, having defied the party establishment to take the nomination.

“Trump, beholden neither to parties nor to political insiders, could shake up Washington,” stated our editorial in January 2017.

Alas, there would be no large infrastructure program and Trump would mostly toe the Republican line, rarely reaching across the aisle to Democrats. But on day one we dared to hope.

So it is that we again dare to hope as Joe Biden prepares to take office as president and Kamala Harris as vice president. And though the challenges they face are far more daunting than when Trump and Vice President Mike Pence arrived in office, we feel our optimism is more well placed.

While the end of the Trump era is marked by the grim marker of surpassing 400,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., the Biden-Harris team has said that getting the pandemic under control will be of the highest priority. The approach will be to ramp up and better organize testing and vaccine distribution, with a goal of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days.

Using the full resources of the federal government, including Federal Emergency Management, the vaccine distribution plan calls for more sites, more personnel, and increased manufacturing. The incoming Biden administration is also looking at loosening vaccine distribution rules, with the goal of getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Overly strict adherence to classifications and registration requirements can slow the process.

There is no denying the deep, deep political divisions within the nation. The outgoing president has been largely uncooperative in the transition and will not attend the inaugural, breaking with long tradition. He continues to deny the reality of his election defeat and his false flag of a corrupt election inspired the attack on the Capitol and has resulted in an unprecedented level of security at today’s event.

One could argue that the divisions are evident in the Congress, too, with Democrats controlling the House of Representatives by only a narrow margin and the Senate split 50-50, with Harris occupying the Senate president seat as the tie-breaking vote.

But we choose to see this as an opportunity for Biden, who in his career in the Senate demonstrated the ability to work across the aisle. The two new Democratic senators from Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, and Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, among others, will be looking for sensible, centrist policies that can garner broad support at home.

Likewise, House members who have a record of being willing to compromise could find increased influence in this Congress, and we count Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, among them.

The ability of Biden to work with this new Congress, and to find paths to agreement, will first be tested with the introduction of his $1.9 trillion COVID-relief program. He may not get all he wants, but we are confident a bill will win approval, as it is needed.

Republicans, after tolerating the lies of the departing president for too long, must make a break and return to fact-based debates. And here there is reason for optimism too, with Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is soon to lose his status as Republican majority leader, finally telling it like it is about the attack on the Capitol.

“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said Tuesday. Those people weren’t Democrats.

Perhaps that is the voice of a senator eager to push past the departing president and maybe, just maybe, willing to work with the new one. As previously noted, we can dare to hope.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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