In the immediate aftermath of Joe Biden’s inauguration, I felt a sense of relief. The rage tweeting and childish name-calling that defined the Trump presidency were over. The government was again functioning more rationally and less chaotically as career public servants replaced Trump sycophants in high level positions. My confidence in our leaders was somewhat restored. 

Initial victories proved that government could make a difference in people’s lives. Instead of inconsistent messages spilling from the White House, the Biden administration got down to the business of rolling out a vaccine. By this past weekend, more than 3 million people per day are getting stuck. They pushed through a stimulus bill that’s goosing the economy back to life. Consumer confidence is rebounding and unemployment is falling. Americans are feeling optimistic about their future again. 

Some things, though, aren’t changing. We’ve had a disturbing spate of mass shootings, including eight people killed at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis. Unarmed young Black people, mostly men and boys, keeping getting killed by police. The prolific use of guns in the country is taking a terrible toll on our country. The battle over what to do about them is keeping us divided. 

Instead getting unified in looking for solutions, we’re unified in digging our heals into our positions. As I traveled across eastern North Carolina this weekend, Blue Lives Matter flags flew alongside Trump signs. People wanted to show their unwavering support for police, no matter how many people died. 

In Raleigh last night, protestors descended on downtown to protest the death of Daunte Wright. The scene was reminiscent of the summer when George Floyd protests left the city boarded up. Protests began peaceful but became more rowdy as night fell. Fortunately, the crowd never got out of hand or destructive. 

Still, the gap between nothing can be done about police and gun violence and defund the police and ban guns is huge. We still need to reclaim the middle in this country. We need solutions, not slogans. Republicans, in particular, are hemmed in by a base that is uncompromising and dogmatic. They are more interested in bashing their opponents than saving the lives of their fellow Americans.

In addition, the immigration problem that’s plagued us for more than two decades isn’t going away soon. The country needs comprehensive immigration reform. It’s a complicated problem that requires hard work and compromises. Republicans have been scuttling compromises since George W. Bush proposed a plan that may have solved the problem for a generation. I suspect Republicans don’t really want it to go away. They can decry the influx of foreigners and keep their base engaged and motivated. 

We may get the pandemic under control in this country over the next six months or so, but the problems that have divided us won’t go away. The extremes are driving much of the argument, helped by the outrage machines on social media and cable news. The GOP has been fully captured by its right-wing base and the left is flexing its muscle in the Democratic Party. We need a caucus of real problem solvers, but that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. In the meantime, I’ll pull for Joe Biden who really does seem to want to get big things done.

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