Biden faces challenge in guiding American past Trump era

US President-elect Joe Biden appeared on television last week as a bipartisan group of lawmakers huddled in an undisclosed location to protect themselves from a violent mob that was ransacking the US Capitol.

The whole room went silent, Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, recalled as everyone listened to Biden denounce the insurrection and call for calm.

The respectful manner in which the lawmakers listened to Biden during one of Americas darkest moments gave Klobuchar hope that the new president has an opportunity to guide the country past the tumultuous final stretch of Donald Trumps presidency.

Thats quickly becoming one of Bidens top tasks as he prepares to take office on January 20. Its an immensely complex challenge, requiring him to balance demands for accountability after Trump incited the riot against those who worry about further dividing the country.

Any misstep could not only intensify the nations polarization, but threaten Bidens ability to win quick congressional approval of his Cabinet picks and other priorities such as coronavirus response legislation.

For now, Biden seems content to leave decisions about Trumps fate to Congress.

What the Congress decides to do is for them to decide,” Biden told reporters last week. But Im going to have to and theyre going to have to be ready to hit the ground running, because when Kamala (Harris) and I are sworn in, were going to be introducing, immediately, significant pieces of legislation that will deal with the virus, deal with the economy, and deal with economic growth. Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, have called on Trump to resign.

Absent that, House Democrats are moving quickly to introduce articles of impeachment on Monday and vote as soon as Tuesday. That would give an outlet for lawmakers to formally condemn Trump, but would delay a Senate trial until after Biden addresses other priorities during his first 100 days.

Biden essentially framed his presidential campaign as a response to Trump, pledging to restore the soul of America. He has said he decided to seek the White House after watching Trump say there were very fine people on both sides of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Still, the insurrection sharpens the debate over how to break with the Trump era.

Many Democrats say the best way for Biden to unify the nation and restore faith in government is to achieve tangible results on issues that matter to all Americans, including the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.

We need to get the vaccine out,” she said. We need to get the economy back to where it was so thats number one on his agenda number one on our agenda so you start with whats number one on everyones agenda.” Steve Israel, a former New York Democratic congressman, said that in his experience in Congress, when lawmakers sense that things are going too far, you want to take a few steps back. I think that there are a lot of Republicans now who are going to want to take a few steps back towards the middle, he said.

But he also emphasized that if Biden hopes to move past Trump, hell need to move fast to show that bipartisan action is possible.

If President Biden tests the appetite of Republicans to try and get a quick and substantive win on a COVID relief package, or perhaps infrastructure investments, that will send a message to the entire country that bipartisanship and healing is possible, he said.

Biden will also have to navigate a number of ongoing investigations into Trumps actions during the U.S. Capitol breach and in trying to pressure state officials to overturn the results of the election in his favour.

He has repeatedly said that his Justice Department will remain entirely independent and that he wont interfere in any ongoing investigations into his predecessor.

Democrats say thats exactly the tone theyd like him to take. But its also important, as Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy put it, to hold those involved in the events of this week accountable.

There were an enormous number of crimes, felonies, that were committed. We have to make sure those are handled, he said. If we just totally ignore it, we tell everybody else you can commit any crime you want because the Congress will ignore it. So far, at least 90 people have been arrested on charges ranging from misdemeanour curfew violations to felonies related to assaults on police officers, possessing illegal weapons and making death threats against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California.

While Democrats emphasize that they want Biden to focus on the issues confronting his administration and not the investigations into his predecessor, they also say its important to address the systemic issues again laid bare by the unequal police treatment of the violent Capitol rioters.

Many have noted that the police presence and response to the largely white mob was far smaller and less aggressive than that seen at a number of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests where the crowd was much more diverse. Its important, said Democratic strategist Karen Finney, for Biden to acknowledge that.

This is who we are but its not who we have to be, she said. If thats the message, it would be a powerful one to try to start to bring us together.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)

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