Student Opinion: In Biden’s Inauguration, Both Hope and Challenges Await

(Doug Mills/The New York Times)

By Jacob Vito

Just two weeks before Jan. 20, thousands of rioters and domestic terrorists had stormed the Capitol. It was the culmination of months of misinformation and violence, as those storming the building hoped to forcibly stop Joe Biden from becoming the president. And yet, there he stood by the same building they attacked,  sworn in as the 46th President of the United States.

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden was inaugurated and officially became the next sitting President for the U.S. Such an action signals the official removal from the Trump administration’s power and officially empowers Biden, his vice president Kamala Harris and the cabinet he hopes to build. 

With a new executive branch behind him, Biden has been quick to act. In just a few days, he has signed several high-profile executive orders, using his new authority to seize border wall construction, lift Muslim immigration bans and beginning a process to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. 

In a short amount of time, Joe Biden has attempted to undo the Trump administration’s actions. In many ways, his administration appears to be acting as a reset to the political controversies of the last four years. Biden, himself, hopes to begin healing from a divisive time full of adversity. 

In his first Presidential address to the country, Biden attempted to reassure a nation facing political, social and biological perils all at once. “This is our historical moment of crisis and challenge,” he proclaimed, “and unity is the path forward.”

If there was a message repeatedly stated in Biden’s address, it was that essential call for unity and healing. Biden implored the American people to “…see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.”

However, the unity that Biden is offering is sadly a far cry from reality. Yes, Donald Trump was removed from office, but one man cannot do this level of damage to the United States alone.

His supporters may have elected Trump, but who wrote his laws? Who passed his bills, who ruled on legislation and who granted him the authority to assume control the way he did? It was not the people outside the Capitol building and outside the government at large, but those who work in it. 

Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and hundreds of other congressmen and women that backed Trump remain in their seats. Kasich, Gorsuch, Barett and thousands of other judges, legislators and bureaucrats that proliferated under Trump’s regime and facilitated his power consolidation are still in government today. 

They are the real threat.

In a multitude of ways, these conservative politicians and officials are what made Trump a threat. Even if they distanced themselves from the violence at the Capitol, and they condemned Trump in his last week in office, even if they now verbally decry those who tried to push America into despotism, they were the ones that brought this country to that edge in the first place. 

They are still to blame.

And make no mistake, those same representatives and officials will support the next conservative demagogue that comes. Because regardless of the calls for “unity,” Republicans have seen only rewards from their actions these last four years. 

In the last presidential term, Republicans passed countless pieces of conservative legislation, presided over a massive tax cut and installed a heavily biased court. Though their progress may now be stalled, there is no denying that for a Republican politician, backing Trump was a very favorable move to make. 

So long as they are not punished, they will do it again.

So what can stop them? In short, those who backed Trump must face real consequences. They must not only be removed from power but also from their platforms. What stopped Trump from encouraging more political violence was not a second impeachment but a ban on Twitter. 

Speech has power, and hate speech holds even more if directed. 

Such direction cannot be assumed again and should be stopped by any means necessary. It was Hegel who said that momentous historical events must happen twice to succeed. This is our nation’s first brush with this kind of political violence, and we must allow a second.

There may be hesitancy among some to remove such long-standing government members for their support of the last president. However, Trump was no ordinary president. He purposefully inflamed the largest domestic coup attempt in a lifetime and goaded his supporters to commit what can only be described as an act of political terrorism.

Biden may have focused on removing Trump and returning to normalcy, but no normality can exist while those who empowered an authoritarian overthrow of the government remain in power. There will be no healing as long as they know it worked and that they can do it again. 

Healing is a necessary act, but America has not yet removed the knife from its wound. Only once we have removed the instrument that caused such damage entirely can we begin to make things better. 

Yes, Biden’s Inauguration is a large step in the right direction, and yes, a country without a Republican majority in either house is a start, but of the goal of this administration and this country being progress, unity and healing, there’s still a long way to go.

Jacob Vito is a first-year Community and Regional Development major at UC Davis. He is from western Pennsylvania.

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