For the first time in four years, the President of the United States is a decent human being. That’s a pretty low bar, but that’s where we are. Joe Biden may turn out to be much more than that – we will see.
Congratulations – we made it through alive. Not everyone did. Mourn the needless deaths – from Covid and otherwise – but do not feel guilty because you survived and others didn’t.
I’m enjoying today. It’s the first step toward restoring decency, compassion, and reason to our government. We didn’t just get a new President today. We got a new Vice President, a new Attorney General, and a new Secretary of State. Instead of “leaders” who were trying to tear things down (Betsy DeVos, I’m looking at you), we have competent professionals in the cabinet… or at least we will when the Senate confirms them.
And we have the most diverse cabinet in American history. Representation matters.
I have many thoughts. Here are ten of them.
1. Let’s give thanks to everyone who made this day possible
I’ve seen a lot of comments saying that without this group or that group this never would have happened. Certainly some individuals and groups are worthy of special recognition: the members of the Navaho Nation who put Biden over the top in Arizona. Stacey Abrams and the members of Fair Fight Action who showed that hard work can turn a red state blue – and then did it again in the Senate runoffs. There were many others who went above and beyond to make this day possible.
But 81 million people voted for Joe Biden – I want to thank all of them. I want to thank everyone who made phone calls, knocked on doors, put up signs, and wrote checks. If you helped get Joe Biden elected, thank you.
2. Let’s give thanks to those who kept the government running
Some like to rant about “faceless bureaucrats” and “the swamp.” But in many cases, it was career civil service employees who kept things running – people who insisted on doing their jobs despite pressure from the former President and his political appointees.
I’ve already read several articles on the damage in the State Department and in the Justice Department. I expect we’ll be reading many more in the weeks and months to come.
I have nothing but respect for those who resigned rather than be a part of the previous administration. But for those who stayed and kept essential functions going as best they could, thank you.
3. Let’s give thanks to the resistance
The idea of “the resistance” always seemed a bit over the top to me. As bad as things have been for the past four years, they haven’t been Nazi-occupied Europe or the Vichy-controlled Morocco of Casablanca.
Still, there were acts of resistance. I wrote about some of them in The Inspiration of Badass Park Rangers in early 2017.
[he] banned all government agencies from communicating with the public … They’ve set up independent Twitter accounts so they can continue to distribute information anyway. So far we have @AltNatParkSer, @AltForestServ, @RogueNASA, @alt_fda, @AltUsda, @TheAltEPA, @AltHHS and more.
[he] doesn’t want them to do their jobs serving the public interest? They’re going to do them anyway.
You smiled when you read that, didn’t you? You cheered when you first heard it. Felt a bit of pride and a bit of hope.
Because a bunch of park rangers did their job.
The resistance served as a constant reminder that this wasn’t just another Republican administration. This was beyond the bounds of ethical government and we could never accept it as normal.
To everyone who resisted, in ways great and small, thank you.
4. The people who tried to overturn the election are still here
As important as today’s changes are, the things that did not change are also important. And that begins with the people who stormed the Capitol and all those who support them and think like them.
They were there because their dear leader told them to be there. But make no mistake – they were there because they wanted to be there. 74 million people voted for authoritarian rule, and a substantial number of them were willing to abandon democracy to keep their preferred authoritarian in power.
And for every “Q Shaman” there was a lawyer, a realtor, a retired military officer. I didn’t see a single unemployed coal miner in the bunch.
I was wrong. It was never about economic anxiety. It was about patriarchy, xenophobia, and white supremacy. The soul of America is rotten.
A few of these people can be redeemed. Most simply have to be opposed: again, and again, and again.
5. Accountability must precede reconciliation
Funny how some Republicans are calling for “unity” and “reconciliation” now that Democrats control the presidency and both houses of Congress. I appreciate Mitch McConnell finally realizing that some lines can’t be crossed, but he waited until he got everything he wanted from the previous administration before he spoke up. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley are pandering to the radical right base, not trying to find common ground with the majority.
The people who tried to overturn the election must be held accountable. The people who tried to dismantle the government must be held accountable. There is a clear bright line between honest conservative politics (which I respect even though I oppose) and what we’ve seen over the past four years, and especially since the election was called on November 7.
No pardons. No “bipartisanship.” No sympathy for the “f*** your feelings” crowd. Forgiveness without repentance just enables further bad behavior.
6. Four years of misrule cannot be undone in a hundred days
It’s important to temper our expectations for what Biden can do right away, even with a Democratic Congress. He’s promised to reverse many of the previous administration’s executive orders – that can be done quickly. But undoing the impact of those orders will take time. So will any changes that require legislation.
And the courts are lost for a generation.
Covid is killing people and wrecking the economy (the real, non-stock-market economy, that is) – combatting the pandemic has to be Priority One. A government can work on multiple things at once, but it can’t fix everything, much less fix it all right away.
7. Biden is ultimately a centrist and must be held accountable to his promises
At the same time, these next few weeks present a unique opportunity. Incoming Presidents try to ride their election momentum into early support for their ideas. Biden has that, plus he has a wounded opposition party with a fair number of Republicans trying to distance themselves from the previous administration. He needs to grab everything he can while he can.
Joe Biden has been a centrist all his life. His positions moved leftward during the campaign, but a 78-year-old doesn’t suddenly change his core beliefs and approach to governing.
When he does the right thing, we need to support him. When he slides back into the worst of what we saw from the Obama and Clinton administrations, we need to criticize him just as loudly as we would if he was a Republican.
8. We are still living in Tower Time
Tower Time isn’t going to end just because the United States has a new President. Even if you discount the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of Tower Time, the fact remains that all empires decline. The American empire is no exception.
Climate change is still going on. Fossil fuels are still being depleted. Species are still going extinct.
This isn’t an apocalypse or a cataclysm. We’re not entering a new Dark Age. But we are about ten years into a period of disruption and decline that will not be over any time soon.
There are still many challenges ahead of us. We can overcome them… but not if we ignore them.
And especially not if we act like they went away at noon today.
9. Do not forget what we have learned
For all that went wrong the last four years, a lot went right.
We remembered that democracy is not a spectator sport. We need not all become political activists, but good citizens have to remain engaged or we will be governed by people who do not share our values.
We have to take care of each other, on a societal scale to be sure. But first and foremost, we have to take care of each other on the ground where we are. Your friends and family are your first and best source of comfort and aid – and you are theirs.
Build a good, deep, consistent spiritual practice and it will support you in difficult times.
Build alliances with people of good will no matter their religious or political persuasions. Don’t let your legitimate demands for accountability turn into a crusade for purity.
And never, ever, underestimate a wannabe dictator. Even if he ultimately fails, the harm will be immense.
10. But today, celebrate
Whatever we need to do can be done starting tomorrow. Today, raise a glass of something or other: in memory of those needlessly lost, in honor of those who made this day possible, and in celebration of a new beginning.
May it be a good one.