Biden, good luck ending US ‘uncivil war’
So, Joe Biden says it is time to end America's "uncivil war".
Good luck with that.
Look, the new president deserves credit. He gave a more than decent speech, one that even at times rose above the workmanlike to make brief eye contact with eloquence, in the very weird pandemic circumstance of having to speak to an audience composed mostly of fluttering flags.
For a candidate whose campaign was marked by verbal stumbles, that alone was an achievement.
Credit, too, to whomever organised the show: For a brief moment, God, Garth Brooks, and Old Glory were no longer the sorts of Trumpian triggers that for the last four years gave the left the heebie-jeebies.
Instead, they were centre stage, giving a bit of substance to Biden's calls to unity, and olive branches to those with whom Democrats disagree.
It also must be said that Donald Trump's absence was notable - and unfortunate.
Appearances matter, tradition matters, and it would have been nice to see the 45th president be there to hand over the keys in person.
Far more optimistic than his virtual convention speech last year, which was shot through with divisive rhetoric about the forces of light and darkness, the Biden speech struck a more optimistic tone.
"My whole soul is in this: bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause," he said.
Biden even quietly referenced Abraham Lincoln, referring to "our better angels" - a call-out to the saviour of the union's own first inaugural address back in 1861, who said, "We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
Lovely stuff - but speeches are one thing, governing is another.
And as much as Biden may pledge to be a "president for all Americans", if he is to do so, his own foreshadowed policies and appointments will make that task all the more difficult.
But let's not forget that Democrats bear plenty of responsibility for this "uncivil war".
From the rise of radical campus politics, to violent demonstrations in American cities that were often dismissed as "mostly peaceful protests", to social media platforms doing everything they can to silence conservative voices, the left has plenty to answer for in making America a more divided place.
The new president's pledge to re-join the Paris Agreement may be music to the ears of Democrats, but for millions of Americans in the country's energy producing regions, it is the stuff of nightmares.
A massive plan to grant amnesty and a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants is seen by Republicans as a Democrat scheme to entrench themselves with a permanent electoral majority.
Biden placement of racial healing and historical reckoning is itself fraught with danger: Will he appeal, as Lincoln suggested, to the "better angels of our nature", or to the statue-smashers and radical activists who claim to want peace but only deal in division?
Even the call to unity is fraught, if it means people are not allowed to disagree and instead must shut up - as many of Trump's 74 million voters worry they are being told to do.
But let's put that aside. Let Biden have his day.
American Democracy, while never truly "in peril" as so many hysterics have put it, still works, and that still counts for a lot.
The work of contesting and criticising can continue tomorrow.
Originally published as Biden, good luck ending US 'uncivil war'