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The Trump presidency is over, and Biden’s begins | Editorial
Here’s to hope, competence and normalcy.
Riot fencing and razor wire reinforce the security zone on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday in advance of President-elect Joe Biden being sworn in as the 46th president on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Riot fencing and razor wire reinforce the security zone on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday in advance of President-elect Joe Biden being sworn in as the 46th president on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) [ J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jan. 20, 2021

Joe Biden becomes the 46th president today of a deeply divided United States. His swearing in promises a new era — of national purpose, of competence and stability, and above all, of hope.

The images of Washington, D.C., alone capture the challenges of Biden’s presidency. The usual pomp and ritual is gone, as tens of thousands of soldiers and police secure America’s seat of government, and as the teeming masses at the Capitol and on the National Mall have been replaced by razor wire and riot fencing.

The starkness of the scene and the somberness of the moment only underscore this nation’s need to make a fresh break. Historians will for decades mine what Donald Trump wrought in four years as president, a legacy capped in the waning days of his term with the deadly siege of the Capitol by pro-Trump insurrectionists and the second of two damning impeachments. In a matter of hours this afternoon, the White House staff will usher out one First Family and welcome the next. But it will take much longer to transform American politics and society and to return the nation to some sense of normal.

Biden has set the stage in his weeks as president-elect, nominating a diverse field of experienced hands for his Cabinet, promising new resolve in the battle against COVID-19 and signaling at every opportunity his willingness to work across the political aisle. These are welcome steps for every American. Biden also chose to invite a bipartisan group to a church service Wednesday before he takes the oath of office. The event may be symbolic, but it’s powerful messaging, and a stark contrast to Trump’s snub of Biden’s electoral victory.

But make no mistake: Democrats and Republicans are still far apart on major policy issues. Biden is expected to reverse course today on several key fronts, returning the United States to the Paris climate accords, cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline and proposing a sweeping overhaul to immigration that could provide millions of people a chance to become U.S. citizens. Democrats and Republicans have far different prescriptions for these and other serious decisions facing the country, which deserve rigorous debate. The Senate also faces the more immediate flash point of conducting a trial over Trump’s second impeachment by the House. The recriminations from the November elections and the Capitol siege, piled onto the partisan resentments that have built for years, won’t evaporate with this morning’s church service. Biden is experienced enough in Washington’s ways to be realistic about any honeymoon. And Trump’s most fervent supporters show no signs of fading away.

Still, Biden’s inauguration will mark a complete transfer of presidential power. Today he can begin building on the aspirations of voters who want a more tolerant, generous America, who see the value in collaboration and alliances who believe that government can be a force for good. Biden has the skills to rebuild the honor of the presidency and the credibility of the Oval Office. It won’t happen overnight. But his presidency brings welcome relief and the promise of positive energy, the kindling that Americans need to imagine what might be possible.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news

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