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Column: Turning the page

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Jack DeVine

President-elect Joe Biden says that “it’s time to heal”.

He’s right. In fact, it’s well past time. Most Americans have lost patience with pervasive political acrimony; many cite that as their reason for supporting Biden.

Hopefully his sentiment is genuine, not just a political sound bite. But the reality is that Joe Biden cannot deliver unity by himself, no matter how sincere his intent. Healing is a team sport, requiring full participation of players on both sides. Both Democratic and Republican leadership and party faithful must move beyond their embedded habit of fighting about everything.

It’s a heavy lift. Unifying the nation means compromise, finding the common ground. It demands mutual trust, and that in turn demands mutual respect.

Right now, neither side shows much appetite for trust or respect. Not Trump and his GOP followers, bloodied from four years of nonstop resistance, investigation and impeachment; and certainly not the Democrat faithful, now flush with victory and threatening retribution.

Letters to the editor regularly appearing on this page drip with derision and even outright contempt for the president – parroting the tone, angry rhetoric and tired talking points of 24/7 cable TV and social media. Joe Biden has called Trump a racist and an “existential threat to our nation.” In his nationally televised speech last week, Biden segued directly from his warm words about healing and turning the page, to accusing Trump of undermining our democracy by challenging the election results.

That’s not much of an olive branch for the 74 million Americans who voted for Mr. Trump.

The acid test of Joe Biden’s true interest in uniting Americans will be how his administration deals with particularly divisive issues.

One is the virus. Biden won the presidency largely by convincing voters that Trump is personally responsible for hundreds of thousands of COVID deaths – while he, Joe Biden, has a plan to “crush” it. Evidently the Biden plan consists of mandating masks for an already masked populace and distributing the life-saving vaccine conveniently left by his supposedly incompetent predecessor.

Biden, Harris and surrogates did their best to undermine public trust in any vaccine produced by the Trump administration; now, post-election, it is almost comical to watch their awkward dance as they heap praise on the scientists who developed the vaccine while they artfully avoid giving any credit to the Trump-led Project Warp Speed that made it happen in world-record time.

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s own James Clyburn and others are calling for the investigation and prosecution of those (Trump, obviously) guilty of "criminal negligence" in their handling of COVID-19.

How’s that for turning the page?

And there’s the election. Just because Democrats and media declare that the 2020 election was fully free and transparent doesn’t make it so. And it is no surprise that courts have been unwilling, as they should be, to overturn all 150 million votes because some votes were improperly cast. The fact remains that this election was marred with malfeasance, inadvisable (and potentially illegal) rules and process changes, and anomalous vote counts; and everyone – whether willing or not to say so aloud – knows it.

The way to cement public trust in our democratic system is for both parties, winner and loser, to join together in taking what happened seriously. The next step should be a comprehensive and independent assessment, with the new president’s full support, of what went right, what went wrong and what actions are needed to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The idea that challenging election results in courts of law undermines democracy – or worse, is treasonous? Seditious? Nonsense, and just one more barrier to unity.

In short, we will remain mired in unhealthy partisanship unless and until both sides commit to ending it. President Trump should concede the election now – not because it was flawless but simply because the nation must continue to operate while an in-depth inquiry is conducted. His team must actively support transition, and the GOP must reject any inclination to treat the next administration as they were treated.

Joe Biden must lead by example – stop blaming and start working, squelch the constant carping from his surrogates; open up meaningful communication and media access. Most importantly, he must turn the page himself, as promised.

What we all must do? Be open to compromise, ignore the media chatter, hold our elected officials accountable for constructive, respectful behavior – and let’s try to work on that mutual trust.

If we want healing, it’s there for the taking. What a perfect Christmas gift to give one another!

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