Uh-oh. Joe Biden is talking unity again.

It came last week at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee in response to a question about how he will bring Americans together. “I take issue with what everybody says about the division,” he replied. “The nation is not divided. You go out there and take a look and talk to people, you have fringes on both ends, but it’s not nearly as divided as we make it out to be.”

Regular readers will be familiar with my take on unity, last offered in January when Biden made a plea for it in his inaugural address. I consider it, at this stage, a pipe dream. As you would not ask a battered wife to seek unity with the husband who beat her, you cannot ask people of color to seek it with bigotry or Muslims with Islamophobia or LGBTQ Americans with homophobia or undocumented workers with xenophobia or fact-based Americans with utter hogwash. Yet bigotry, Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia and utter hogwash are, increasingly, the only things the political right has to offer.

So from where I sit, Biden speaks nonsense. But maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world.

I’m remembering another president who spoke nonsense. This was on March 4, 1933. Having just taken the oath of office, Franklin Roosevelt faced a nation mired in economic collapse — the unemployment rate near 25%, GDP down by 30%, one in five banks failing — and promised a revival. “The only thing we have to fear,” he asserted, “is fear itself.”

And yes, the words are stirring. But if you think about it, they are also patently ridiculous. Americans, after all, had plenty to fear: joblessness, homelessness, hunger, and the prospect of national collapse topping the list. Yet Roosevelt’s words rallied and inspired a dispirited nation. Almost 90 years later, they offer a useful challenge to skeptics like me, a reminder not to underestimate the power of presidential optimism. Or, indeed, the power of a president’s character.

When Bill Clinton was pilloried for sexually exploiting a naive young woman and then lying about it, it was common to hear his defenders opine that it didn’t matter what kind of man a president was, so long as he did the right thing politically. As Barbra Streisand famously snipped, “We elected a president, not a pope.”

If the last four years accomplished nothing else, they should have put permanently to rest the notion that presidential character is unimportant. The kind of person a president is has a lot to say about the kind of nation we will be. It is his or her job to make entreaty to the best in us, the highest and most noble in us, to speak into existence that which is unlikely — indeed, that which may even be, or at least seem to be, patently ridiculous. That’s how Lincoln won a civil war, Roosevelt overcame a great depression and Kennedy sent men to the moon.

The memory of all that imposes upon me a certain duality of mind when Biden insists, against all the evidence of our eyes, our hearts and our logic, on American unity. On the one hand, you recall the march through Charlottesville, the breaching of the Capitol, the spinelessness, the faithlessness, the litany of lies and alibis that continues right up to the present moment, and the idea of unity with those people — yes, they have become “those people” in my mind — seems delusional, far-fetched, a mirage of shadow and smoke. On the other hand, it feels undeniably ... right to once again hear a president call us toward higher purpose.

So yes, a duality of mind. I do not believe unity is possible.

But I’m glad Joe Biden does.

Tribune Content Agency, 2021.

(21) comments

LVW

The way I see it, there are two big impediments to "unity." First, we have way too many people who subscribe to the lazy logic of simply demonizing the "other side," rather than trying to understand other perspectives. (See many DN-R comments for examples. Or even Pitts himself.) Secondly, we don't have a well-defined common enemy at the moment. (Think 9/11.)

Donald

It depends on who you include in “we”, Mr. LVW. The corporate media, celebraties, and politicians are currently working hard at defining the “common enemy” as those tens of millions of Americans who voted for Trump. And, if that does not work, rest assured, the ruling classes always have some foreign enemy up their – shall we say – sleeve.[wink]

LVW

Donald: Oh please. Your post itself illustrates what I am saying: your "common enemy" (the ruling class or corporate elite or whatever) is part of our population.

Donald

You actually think that America is still a “we” and an “our”? I think that is somewhat quaint, Mr. LVW.

LVW

Donald: Yes, I do.

posumcop

They well-defined common enemy that resisted "unity" at all costs over the last 5 years is very well-defined. Unfortunately they will also receive plenty of assistance from their partners that now sit atop the heap and purportedly are calling for "unity.".

newshound

I do see your point but as long as the dufous faux president keeps running his mouth and using his “phone and pen” without decent ideas and true integrity, not much will improve.

prodigalson

There is good, and there is evil LVW, and good can never compromise with, or be at unity with, evil. And yes, we have a common enemy. His name is Santa, and he resides at The Hot Place. Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle.

freeride

How can innocent business owners in the cities who had their businesses burnt down and looted unify with the thugs who destroyed them? How can they unify with the leaders in charge who watched it happen and did nothing? How can half this country unify with a group of politicians and MSM who have lied through their teeth about events that have taken place only to be proven totally wrong? How can Americans unify when they have seen the many irregularities that took place during this past election and not one judge in the states where most of them took place will even look at the evidence? `

DeftCurmudgeon

Nope, a substantial portion of the country knows that Xiden is an illegitimate POTATUS and another sizable portion suspects that fact but doesn't care since it means that the Orange Man is gone.

And since the current regime is he!! bent on going full on kook and forcing the country hard left you can look for the next few years to be short on "unity" and long on an attempt at total control.

prodigalson

You are correct about one thing Mr. Pitts. Unity is not possible, nor should it be. Good can never peacefully coexist with evil. Your side is evil.

Donald

Well, maybe two things, Mr. prodigalson – “So from where I sit, Biden speaks nonsense.”

That aside, his handlers know exactly what they are doing. By the way, I think I know why Ms. Harris is always standing so close to Mr. Biden in public. She’s a ventriloquist. All he has to do is wiggle his face behind his mask and she does the rest. Yeah, really. It’s the truth.

[wink]

Driller

Donald, Seems you need more cheese with your WHINE!

Driller

Prod, I guess I need to tell you again what pure evil is. Your Saudi Countrymen flying planes into the Twin Towers, killing thousands of Americans and killing a reporter and cutting him up. That my evil Saudi Brother is pure evil from your Saudi Evil Brothers. Have a great day and I know you appreciate the kind words I have written.

prodigalson

Good morning Driller, and thank you once again for your many kind words. Why, my Brother, do you continue to persecute my Saudi people? I've given you an account of some of the things that my people have brought to this beautiful country (oil, turbans, the religion of "peace"), for which you should be eternally grateful. Perhaps I should provide you with a more exhaustive list so that you will more fully understand. In addition to the things I have already mentioned, we have brought you camels, goats, scorpions, hijabs, madrasas, prayer mats, sharia law, and jihad. Now please, my Brother, in the future, try to be more culturally sensitive with your posts. The fate of the internationally community depends on it.

I wish you well in your search for Truth, my insensitive racist Brother.

Driller

Prod, I'll tell you again what pure evil is. Your Saudi Brothers flying airplanes into the Twin Towers killing thousands of Americans and killing a reporter and cutting him up. Have a good day and keep telling me what a great amount of stuff your Country of Saudi Arabia has given us. Your post is sad my evil Saudi Brother.

freeride

driller, what's more evil is how many liberals like yourself tried to claim 9/11 was an inside job and that then president Bush had something to do with it. That should have been a wake up call to America just how evil the left is and how they will stop at nothing to turn us all into slaves, or kill us trying!

Driller

freeride YOU ARE A LIAR!!! Have you ever heard me say 9/11 was an inside job?

freeride

driller, you really are shallow minded. No wonder no one can understand your confusing, a$$ backwards posts. I didn't say you, I said many liberals like you....I'm sorry that was over your head but thats seems to be they way most liberals think.....always exposing their selves before the fact. You can put your mask back on now, a little more oxygen might help clear the cobwebs. Have a good day!

prodigalson

Great posts freeride. I think we may need to begin handling Driller with kid gloves. He has proven himself to be more than a little bit unhinged. Let's keep him in our prayers.

LVW

fr: Liberals claimed 9/11 was an inside job? That's news to me. it did happen on Bush's watch, so he bears some responsibility like anyone in the White House would have, but to say he "had something to do with it" is crazy.

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