Thomas Gallatin / Jan. 21, 2021

Civility, Not Unity

Biden's call for unity is really a demand for acquiescence to the Democrats' political agenda.

In those indelible words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Just because Joe Biden repeatedly referenced “unity” in his inaugural speech doesn’t make his agenda a unifying one. That fact was made clear by the actions he took immediately after entering the Oval Office. You see, when Biden and the Democrats call for “unity,” what they really mean is acquiescence to their leftist agenda. Unity should never be an end in and of itself. Of far greater importance is the ideal or agenda to which one is being called to conform or agree.

Biden issued 17 executive actions and orders on Day One, none of which did anything to promote “unity.” Rather, they all were blatantly political, as they reversed Donald Trump’s policies and reinstated Barack Obama’s. This was entirely expected, of course, but it’s absolutely false to paint these actions as “unifying” — they are just as divisive today as when Obama first ordered them.

Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw responded to Biden’s orders by succinctly exposing who they actually benefit:

Who this agenda helps.

Paris Agreement -> China, European diplomats

Cancel Keystone -> Russian oligarchs

No wall -> illegal immigrants

Working class American priorities, small businesses reopening and recovering…nowhere to be found.

For Biden and the Democrats, it’s clear that the call for “unity” is the bludgeon they will use to demand capitulation to their agenda, a theme Biden repeated last night. “And to overcome the challenges in front of us requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy: unity,” he said. “It requires us to come together in common love of what defines us as Americans: opportunity, liberty, dignity and respect, and to unite against common foes: hate, violence, disease and hopelessness.”

Once again, this rhetoric comes from the guy who on the campaign trail publicly boasted that if he were in high school with Donald Trump, “I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.” This from the guy who disgustingly blamed Trump for the coronavirus-related deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. This from the guy who repeatedly demonized Trump as a racist and a white supremacist. And even in his “unity” speech, Biden purposefully insinuated that Trump supporters were “white supremacists” and “domestic terrorists.” Unity? What unity?

As Heather Mac Donald observed, “Biden rattled off a litany of white America’s sins: the ‘harsh, ugly reality’ of ‘racism, nativism, fear, [and] demonization’; ‘anger, resentment, hatred, [and] extremism.’ He did not name white Americans as such, but he did not need to. That qualifier is inherent in the language he chose to adopt.”

If Biden had issued a unified call for civility in the face of deep political divisions, and if he had demonstrated that civility by refusing to label and demonize his political opponents as racists, nativists, and fearmongers, he would have gone a long way toward what he called the need to “lower the temperature.” In fact, his remarks did little but ensure that it remains high.

On the other side of the “unity” theme, political analyst David Harsanyi concludes: “Political unity is an ugly, authoritarian idea. No free nation has domestic political unity, nor should it aspire to it. What ‘unity’ really means is capitulation. … Unity is found in comity with your neighbors, in your churches and schools, in your everyday ­interactions with your community. Politics is not a place for unity. It is a place for airing grievances. And we’ve got plenty.” And as policy analyst Josh Lawson notes, “If Biden really wants unity, he will affirm equality under the law like [Abraham] Lincoln and [Thomas] Jefferson did.”

As Mark Alexander observed, “There is a distinction between political ‘unity’ and ‘civility.’ Biden’s use of political unity is tantamount to political submission, the conformity associated with tyranny. To that end, we should not confuse political unity with civility.”

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