There were fears that further outbreaks of violence would happen this week and thousands of heavily armed troops were drafted in and tall barriers erected to protect the ceremony – proof that when it comes to their own safety Democratic Party politicians value guns and high walls to keep the bad guys out.
But the fact that Joe Biden, the democratically elected President, could not take office without the presence of a considerable army to protect him from his own people is a sad and depressing reflection on the current state of American politics.
What we have in the US, and to some extent in the UK, is two mutually hostile tribes who are unable and unwilling to compromise and co-operate for the benefit of the country they both profess to love.
Many people will blame the departing Donald Trump for this state of affairs, and indeed he must shoulder much of the blame. His encouragement of the rioters on January 6 was unforgivable.
But I am afraid the malaise goes much deeper than this and the divisions started much earlier. Trump was always a symptom of the disease, rather than its cause.
For example, I can clearly recall Hillary Clinton’s supporters refusing to accept Trump’s victory in 2016. There were calls for the election to be re-run, for the US Supreme Court to intervene and even for the suspension of all civil liberties to prevent Trump from lawfully taking office.
There were demonstrations, boycotts and threats of violence in a determined effort to delegitimise Trump before he set foot in the Oval Office.
It was all ridiculous. Trump won fairly and squarely in 2016 – just as Biden won fairly and squarely in 2020. My advice to the disappointed Clinton and Trump supporters (and incidentally to Remainers in the UK) was exactly the same – take defeat on the chin, swallow your disappointment and work with your opponents to heal the divisions.
It didn’t happen after 2016. Instead we had the preposterous allegations that Russia had somehow fixed the election – a claim that after investigations costing millions of dollars turned out to be a great big “nothingburger”.
Will things be better this time around? I have my doubts but I fervently hope so. And I was cheered by some of the words of President Biden in his inauguration speech.
He spoke movingly of uniting America and “healing a broken land” and seeing each other not as adversaries but as neighbours, and treating each other with dignity and respect.
And the key point for me was when he added: “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts, if we show a little tolerance and humility, and if we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes, as my mom would say. Just for a moment, stand in their shoes.”
I say a loud Amen to that, Joe – open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.
America matters, not just because it has been a symbol of liberty for more than 200 years, but also because it is the leader of the free world and a powerful and indispensable bulwark against the tyrannies of communism, fascism and terrorism.
Even though here in the UK we don’t have a vote, who becomes the US President matters to us like no other political leader around the globe. And our relationship with the US is probably more important than any other.
Of course I have misgivings about President Biden, not least his reported cognitive decline and the fact he was part of Barack Obama’s bellicose era in power. In contrast Trump, in typical fashion, was boasting this week that he was the first president in decades not to start any new wars.
And Biden is a follower of that fashionable woke ideology of identity politics that is tearing America apart.
But I am prepared to put such reservations aside and if Biden is true to his words and attempts to bring the country together, we can look forward to the next four years with a sense of hope and optimism. So, good luck and Godspeed to President Joe Biden!
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