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?
The fact is systemic racism touches every facet of American life, and everyone — no matter your race or ethnicity — benefits when we build a more equitable America.
— President Biden (@POTUS) January 27, 2021
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.
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.