Unity, Week One

Nobody knows for sure what a president will do once in office. To some extent, it shouldn’t matter all that much, as he’s not the king, just the president. It’s not as if he can rule by decree in our tripartite system. Then again, there are Executive orders. Biden hasn’t been shy about issuing them, largely to rescind those issued by Trump, but also to reimagine his policy agenda to make “racial equity” the centerpiece of his administration.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday rolled out an additional slate of executive actions to address racial equity, a move to fulfill a key campaign promise that he made during the height of this past summer’s protests.

Biden said that Tuesday’s actions are a direct response to the groundswell of protests that emerged following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minnesota police and the resulting calls for racial justice. In brief remarks at the White House, the president said Floyd’s death “opened the eyes of millions” and paved the way for change.

Biden has a facility for speaking in gross vagaries. Whether that’s because he’s an astute politician or he just doesn’t know what he’s saying is unclear. He keeps using the words “racial justice,” which sounds nice but says nothing. But now that he’s busy issuing edicts, perhaps there will be some flesh on the bones?

Diverse and inclusive communities strengthen our democracy.  But our Nation’s history has been one of great struggle toward this ideal.  During the 20th century, Federal, State, and local governments systematically implemented racially discriminatory housing policies that contributed to segregated neighborhoods and inhibited equal opportunity and the chance to build wealth for Black, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American families, and other underserved communities.  Ongoing legacies of residential segregation and discrimination remain ever-present in our society.  These include a racial gap in homeownership; a persistent undervaluation of properties owned by families of color; a disproportionate burden of pollution and exposure to the impacts of climate change in communities of color; and systemic barriers to safe, accessible, and affordable housing for people of color, immigrants, individuals with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals.

Is this true? It’s hard to say, since it doesn’t actually say much of anything about the basis for these assertions. Did racially discriminatory housing policies cause a “racial gap in homeownership” or the “persistent undervaluation of properties owned by families of color”? There is a gap, but what caused it? There is a lower valuation, but isn’t value the product of what people will pay for a house? Did federal discrimination really create systemic barriers to affordable housing for “gender non-conforming” individuals? What does this even mean?

Is this a fact or the C- term paper of a third-tier college sophomore in a grievance studies course? Before you lose faith that Joe Biden is turning into the bumbling old puppet of the worst wing of his constituency, remember that a week ago he was talking about “unity.” You remember unity, right?

“To restore the soul and secure the future of America requires so much more than words,” Joe Biden said in his inaugural address. “It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity.”

The question, only a week later, is whether unity is itself more than just a word.

Since the inaugural address, many have questioned what Biden meant by unity. I know I have. Others have as well.

Some Republicans think unity is something they can weaponize against Biden as they willfully misinterpret his meaning. “Unity themes and divisive actions,” grumbled Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) on Twitter. “A radical leftist agenda in a divided country will not help unify our country,” protested Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “It will only confirm 75 million Americans biggest fears about the new administration.”

Of course Republicans were going to grumble about unity. They won’t get their way. Then again, they lost the election, not to mention Congress, because they chose to back Trump. Elections have consequences. Surely, unity didn’t mean that the losers win.

But unity never meant passing policies that charm both the minority and the newly earned majority. It was always more about process than policy: about mutual respect, and restoring the norms that a certain Florida resident blew out of the water. Most important, it was about ideals — democracy, for starters, and equality over “racism, nativism, fear, demonization,” as Biden put it. Those, not prohibitions on oil pipelines or even protections for transgender people, are the shared ground we’re now being asked to stand on.

She’s got a point, unfortunately, but only because the alternative to the ideals of democracy and equality was Trump. And what could possibly be wrong with democracy and equality?

To the left, unity can be a threat, too. So maybe Biden won’t try to meet the white supremacists halfway, but he does want to negotiate in good faith with those who have, over the past decade or so, done next to nothing to stymie their party’s worst instincts and biggest troublemakers. That’s a kind of unity the left doesn’t love.

Is it possible that “unity” didn’t mean that moderate Joe Biden would use his office to pursue the progressive agenda that even the Democratic Party overwhelmingly rejected by not nominating Bernie or Liz as its candidate for president?

One of the assumptions that permeates punditry is that America is a nation of the extreme right and the extreme left, where everyone who isn’t a social justice warrior is a white supremacist, everyone who isn’t dedicated to fighting systemic racism is a racist. What about the rest of the nation, the middle of a nation that believes in democracy, but also constitutional rights, freedom, family, education, hard work, responsibility? What about those who will fight for equality, but recognize that equity is untenable. We can only control opportunity; outcome is up to each of us, and some of us will do better than others.

My hope was that Joe Biden will be the president for the majority of Americans. That included the majority of his party, as well as the many people who voted for Trump not because they drank the cult Kool-Aid, but because they are deeply concerned that the Dems have forsaken liberal values.

After week one, Biden’s rhetoric has grown increasingly inflammatory, filled with vapid cries of racial justice as reflected in the least democratic of tools, Imperial Edicts. Does this mean moderate liberals should lose faith that Biden was the guy to return us to normal? Maybe, but bear in mind that “unity” only lasted about ten minutes. Then again, the details will be fashioned by bureaucrats, undersecretaries of whatever, who will rule their administrative fiefdoms with iron fists while Joe Biden basks in the legacy of finally being elected president because the alternative was Trump.

21 thoughts on “Unity, Week One

  1. DaveL

    The stock-in-trade of the Grievance Studies crowd is to catalog every possible disadvantage faced by a person of color and hype it as a grievance. But if we’re really interested in improving the lives of people of color, that won’t do, because in the real world you really can’t have it all. In the real world, tradeoffs abound. Disadvantages must be weighed against advantages and a compromise struck between the two. In the real world, having a high-value property means paying more for it, that’s what “high-value” means, and if your property is “affordable” that means it’s worth less money. Normal people understand that “undervalued” and “affordable” go hand-in-hand, but in the minds of the woke, unaffordable and undervalued are two separate grievances, both of which must be abolished in order to achieve racial justice.

  2. B. McLeod

    In yesterday’s ramblings, one of the four edicts touted as advancing “racial equity” was for nonrenewal of DOJ contracts for private prisons. The ostensible connection to “racial equity” was that private prisons have been of poor quality, so Friendly Neighborhood Bidey Man is helping out minorities with better prisons.

    Had such an oafishly racist utterance spilled from the mouth of Donald J. Trump, it would have been a front page “outrage” on every news site for a month. From Bidey Man, we just pretend it didn’t happen. Let’s fix up those prisons for the minority folks, um-kay? Maybe that is the new “unity”.

    1. SHG Post author

      Pro Publico twitted that “this is huge.” It’s not. Whether it would have been oafishly racist had Trump done it has more to do with TDS than substance, but it would still not be huge.

      1. B. McLeod

        Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses, are they still in operation?

        Thanks, Bidey Man! Don’t know what we would do without you.

  3. Charles

    Equity may be untenable, but it’s making up for it with momentum. Even things with little mass, when accelerated enough, exert a tremendous force. F = m ⋅ a in physics and politics, apparently.

  4. John Barleycorn

    Damn esstemed one… !?

    Please tell me this isn’t the best an old lawyer from New Jersey, speaking on behalf of the “majority” of Americans can come up with?

    The exasperated perspiration of this post alone is probably enough to dangerously dampen your long guarded pile of powder. And if not, the internal weeping “liberalism” tears alone might be enough to fuck up your powder pile up forever…

    Someone needs to slap you up side the head, to wake you sleepy ass up before your next run at a post like this, or you may drown in the sorrow of your own happy, happy, happy visions.

    Damn, if this post was not some godawful weepy ass drivel steaming in some morning naivete so thick as to make the humidity of a Cajun swamp in August look refreshing.

    1. SHG Post author

      It was fun enjoying your modestly concise and cogent comments while they lasted. But I don’t speak for anyone but myself. JB.

      1. John Barleycorn

        True but this line;

        “My hope was that Joe Biden will be the president for the majority of Americans.”

        is suspect, at best. 😉

        And to think I was gonna go with my first two-thousand word cogent Kafka kaleidoscope fantasy paralleling this post as you speaking to yourself but as a US Senator.

        Next time, perhaps….

  5. Jake

    If only there was a branch of government that, if not for their own intransigence, could pass laws and reel in the office of the president.

    1. SHG Post author

      I never expected you to be such a Trump apologist and supporter of the Unitary Executive theory. Or is it different when it’s Biden, in which case it’s Congress’ fault for not making him behave?

      1. Jake

        On the contrary, I used the term ‘office of the president’ for a reason. Congress has gradually abdicated their power to the president for decades.

        The last four years were the most outrageous and flagrant abuses of power going unchecked I’ve ever witnessed, but I’d suggest a Trump presidency would have looked much different if Congress had acted when Roosevelt unilaterally rounded up Japanese American Citizens and threw them into concentration camps.

        And Trump apologist? Sure. If Congress wants to start down the long, hard road towards regaining their authority, I’d strongly suggest they drop the hammer on Donald Trump. If they don’t, they’ll have proven they can’t even control an outrageously criminal ex-president who is supported by a small minority of the population.

  6. KeyserSoze

    This country has:

    An addiction\rehab industry.
    A homelessness industry.
    A climate catastrophe industry.
    A poverty industry.
    And a newly re-invigorated “systemic racism”\racial grievance industry.

    It looks like they will do extremely well in the next four years. Anyone know where I can buy stock in these industries?

    I know someone is going to make some off of them. Might as well be me.

  7. Eliot clingmsn

    Biden will woke-wash till the cows come home, as it’s a cheap and cynical way to appease the progressivetard wing of the party while pursuing the neo liberal agenda friendly to his big business supporters. I mean, he’s from the neo feudal state of De la Ware!

    As Barlycorn states, your naivety in these matters is hilarious!

    Cheers!

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