It was just one week ago. The news that Jon Ossoff, a proud Jew, and Raphael Warnock, a respected Black minister, won election as Georgia’s new Democratic senators was a big deal. Democrats rejoiced. Republicans sulked. Pundits had a field day. And the House was poised to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Then the unthinkable happened. Violent supporters of President Donald Trump broke into the U.S. Capitol — the first such breach in modern history — in protest, and in an effort to overturn a lawful presidential election.
The nation was stunned. Reactions were a mix of outrage, frustration, disbelief and concern. We struggled to absorb and understand the debacle that unfolded in real time on national television. Trump’s belated, mealy-mouthed “go home, we love you” speech only added to the anger. Lives were tragically lost. And our nation was badly wounded. We will survive. But we are shaken.
Despite the violence of that day, one thing was clear: Georgians provided Democrats and Biden with majority power in the Senate, and gave the Democrats the political trifecta — control of the three branches of government.
All of this gives Biden a significant opportunity. But with opportunity comes challenges. One of them is, of course, the need to heal a deeply divided and COVID-challenged nation.
We hope that Joe Biden is up to the task. He certainly has more experience and is more humble than Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, who entered the White House during periods of national trauma. And he has the spirit and optimism to emerge with the momentum to begin his presidency by tackling the COVID epidemic and some of the many initiatives he highlighted during his campaign.
With congressional support behind him, Biden will have the ability to fulfill many of his promises to voters. But his time is short — perhaps just two years. And he needs to keep a watchful eye on the costs of his program enactments. Although the likelihood of a balanced budget is remote, there is no way Biden can feed this country’s addiction to tax cuts and still deliver on many of his domestic and international promises.
We are living in a time when expectations have been turned on their heads. After last week’s seismic jolt to our national sense of democracy and decency, we look forward to a return to “normal.” We look forward to lively and coherent debate over government policy and programs, and how to get things done. And we hope that our brief but tragic detour to insurrection and sedition is behind us.
The Trump era is over. Any good he was able to accomplish in the past four years will be overshadowed by the ignominy of his narcissism and poor choices during his last days in office. And in his wake, it remains to be seen whether the party of Lincoln will survive in a form that we recognize today.