Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Jan. 20

We should help Biden bring back civility

America has proven the strength of its democracy for nearly 245 years, as power has shifted peacefully from one leader to another.

Now it’s time to show the world — following the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol building Jan. 6 — that our nation is still a beacon of hope and freedom, where fair elections settle our differences, not violence.

On Wednesday we celebrated the inauguration of Joe Biden, who became the 46th president of the United States. Biden was duly elected, and it’s shameful that President Donald Trump won’t acknowledge that fact. Not since the incredibly close and contested election of 2000 and, before that, the Civil Rights and Civil War eras, has such division surrounded our democratic process.

Trump was the first president in more than 150 years to skip the swearing in of his successor Wednesday. This norm-shattering rejection of American tradition comes just two weeks after a mob of Trump supporters raided the Capitol, trying to overturn Biden’s election victory by force. Five people died. More than 100 have been arrested.

In the wake of that shocking riot and the prosecution of its instigators, our nation must strive to reconcile and heal. Now is the time to pull together around common beliefs, not strain over our differences. We all have a role to play in dialing back the partisan rancor.

Biden won the White House with a message of unity, and that’s what he emphasized in Wednesday’s inaugural address. Biden has pledged to work toward solutions in the sensible center of American politics, where most people can agree on a solid path forward. That’s welcome and reassuring.

Many statesmen attended Wednesday’s transition of power that recognizes the will of the people. Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were on hand as Biden took the oath of office. Jimmy Carter, at 96, sent best wishes from his Georgia home.

Significantly, Vice President Mike Pence was there, which Biden has called an honor.

That’s the kind of collegiality we need from our elected leaders during these challenging times. We hope Pence’s diplomacy signals a return to normalcy for the Republican Party that spent four years drifting far from its principles in the service of Trump’s whims.

Elections have consequences, winning candidates are fond of saying. But elections also offer a chance to reset our priorities and renew our democracy.

Biden’s most pressing task will be putting the COVID-19 pandemic behind us. At the same time, the U.S. Senate must deal swiftly with its impeachment trial of Trump, who incited the Jan. 6 attack. The new administration can’t afford to be distracted from its many challenges. Biden’s strong goals include administering 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines and reopening most schools in his first 100 days.

America must “build back better,” as Biden has proclaimed. His campaign theme strives to bring back jobs and the economy, which is imperative. Yet it doubles as a strong message for our nation’s system of government. Democracy must be strengthened here in America and encouraged around the globe.

Biden has pledged to be a president for all Americans, not just the half who voted for him. Here in Wisconsin, that includes 1.63 million people who supported Biden, and 1.61 million who favored Trump.

All of us, regardless of politics, should congratulate the new president and wish him great success — for if he is successful, then our nation will be, too.


Kenosha News, Kenosha, Jan. 19

Ryan, Pence showed us Democracy is still alive

While there was ample press and commentary who was skipping the inauguration, we thought it noteworthy to mention in particular a couple of people who attended — former House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence.

Ryan’s and Pence’s attendance sends a strong message about our democracy and its 223-year tradition of a peaceful transition of power between presidential administrations. Their presence was particularly relevant in light of the Jan. 6 rampage at the U.S. Capitol.

Despite a divided nation, many still unconvinced that the 2020 presidential election was free of fraud and tampering, many others thinking just the opposite, and many stunned and saddened by the Capitol siege, we would venture to say that the masses are ready to move on and let the inauguration and transition of power take place. It’s high time to turn the attention to the serious issues facing the country, most notably the pandemic.

Agree with their political stands over the years or not, both Ryan and Pence have long embodied the traditional aura of statesmanship. Over the years they have shown professionalism and dignity as they carried out their duties. Pence particularly showed courage in parting with the president he has long championed — and stood steadfastly by the side of — when he carried out the Electoral College count on Jan. 6.

Ryan represented Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties for more than 20 years in Congress and throughout that time was clear, direct and genuine in laying out and promoting his agenda. You knew where he stood and he was never phony in his approach, whether you embraced or disavowed his policies.

The presence of both men, along with past presidents including George W. Bush, gave us assurance that despite the difficult challenges America faces, our ship of democracy is still afloat.