Unity was the theme of President Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
But is even a semblance of that achievable in the wake of such a tumultuous election season and division among the political parties?
“Joe Biden has a very difficult road ahead if he wants to achieve any measurable degree of national unity,” said University of North Georgia political science professor Carl Cavalli.
But that’s not all bad news for the nation’s 46th president, he said.
“Political polarization in the nation and in Congress is about as wide as it has ever been,” Cavalli said. “However, the current fissures opening in the Republican Party since the Capitol riots might hold some small promise for Biden.
“Given the partisan numbers in both houses, he has little to no margin for error, but it is possible that he may be able to co-opt a handful of Republicans in both houses to build a very modest bipartisan coalition.”
Biden won both the popular vote and Electoral College by a wide margin, but former President Trump, who didn’t attend Biden’s inauguration, still claimed he won the election long past state vote recounts and failed legal challenges.
Tens of thousands of troops were on the streets to provide security precisely two weeks after a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent the certification of Biden’s victory.
“I think America is so ready” for Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, said Gainesville’s Wilson Golden, a lifelong Democrat who was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention last summer.
“I think Joe built his campaign for the nomination and then the presidency on clear-eyed optimism, because we’ve got this huge monster — the pandemic — and (Democrats) are ready to step up, really with no transition, and go to work.”
Golden, a national convention veteran who met a young Joe Biden, a U.S. senator from Delaware, at the 1976 convention, said he believes “the secret sauce” to any kind of bipartisanship going forward is Biden himself.
With half a century in political posts, “he understands how you get stuff done,” Golden said.
“We lost the election, and I think we need to find some way that both sides can come together,” said Ed Asbridge, a strong South Hall Republican who now serves on the Flowery Branch City Council. “That’s the only way we can get something done, or we’re just going to go through four years of fighting back and forth. I hope they don’t do that.”
Disagreements will come up, but maybe elected officials “can bend a little bit,” Asbridge said. “Mr. Biden said he wants to bring people together, and I hope he does.”
One of the area’s leading Republicans, newly elected U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde of Athens, couldn’t be reached for comment. He objected to electoral votes certifying Biden as president and voted against Trump’s impeachment.
Jentezen Franklin, senior pastor of Free Chapel in Gainesville and an evangelical adviser to Trump, commented on Twitter that others should join him in praying for Biden, Harris and “their entire administration.”
“Pray for wisdom, health, protection, guidance and for God to heal our land,” Franklin said.
Democrats, controlling both chambers of Congress and the Oval Office, still need to be careful in governing, especially as they have slim majorities in the House and Senate, Cavalli said.
A theme repeated in recent administrations is “presidents come in with a congressional majority, and then lose one or both houses in the first mid-term,” he said.
“On the other hand, today’s high levels of partisan polarization may actually strengthen Biden’s hand as he won’t have as many partisan defectors as did (past presidents),” Cavalli said.
The Associated Press contributed.