Editorial: Biden's call for unity, truth
In an impassioned speech at his inauguration Wednesday, President Joe Biden reminded Americans that a president’s words can be used to unite the country, not divide it.
After five years of Trump issuing childish Twitter attacks daily against any and all perceived opponents, including constant assaults on the very notion of civility, humility and truth, President Biden set a new course for the country on Day 1 of his presidency.
We must, the president said, unite to fight “the foes we face: anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness and hopelessness. With unity, we can do great things... We can right wrongs…. We can reward work and rebuild the middle class and make health care secure for all. We can deliver racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world…”
“Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path,” he continued. “… We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured. Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility… to defend the truth and defeat the lies.”
That last point is more important than ever. It’s clear that a vast majority of Republicans have drunk the Trump Kool-Aid and wrongly believe the election was stolen from him, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But it’s worse than that one lie: a good number of mainstream Republicans, including many evangelical Christians, and rightwing extremists believe in conspiracy theories that are so completely divorced from reality that they were willing to sacrifice our democracy, through illegal and treasonous deeds, for the lies they believed to be true.
We hope and believe President Biden and Vice-president Kamala Harris have the wisdom and fortitude to right America’s ship, and agree with priorities to tackle the pandemic, health care, climate change and the economy. But we would add one more crucial priority: reinstating an updated version of the Fairness Doctrine and implementing federal regulations that penalize those who deliberately misinform the public. In Britain and in Europe, stiff fines and penalties are given for purveyors of news who spread obvious lies and mistruths. We need acceptable mechanisms to do the same here and it must be done in these first few months while the memories of insurrectionists spouting irrational nonsense is still seared in our souls.
Truth is the foundation for a functioning democracy. Without it, you’re a country run by strongmen projecting self-serving lies and manipulating the laws of the land, as is Russia and the many other dictatorships with which Trump was so enamored and to which he aspired — with, we note, the help of many Republicans in Congress.