The State of the Nation’s Soul

by John L. Micek
[cartoon id="248377"] When a traitorous band of pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol just a month ago in a deadly rampage that shook American democracy to its foundations, they were doing more than just trying to illegally upend the results of the November 2020 elections. They were trying to turn back history. Though he might try to deny it at the Senate impeachment trial that gets underway this week, former President Donald Trump nursed and nurtured that sense of grievance and a mountain of false claims through his four years in the White House. On Jan. 6., Trump set a torch to the rage he’d been kindling throughout his presidency, loosing the mob that marched on the Capitol. New data from the Pew Research Center backs up that corrosive sense of grievance, even as it points the way toward a badly needed recalibration in our politics and national dialogue. According to the poll, nearly two-thirds of American adults say they expect Black people to gain influence in a Biden administration that’s been deliberately structured to look like a changing nation. Equally large shares of respondents say they expect women (63 percent) and LGBTQ Americans (60 percent) to gain influence over the next four years. Only one in 10 respondents say they expect these demographics to lose influence, according to Pew. Respondents also said they expected young people (54 percent), Hispanics (53 percent), the poor (50 percent), and unions (48 percent) to gain increased clout in the new White House. If you’re a racist Proud Boy, a QAnon dupe, or a Trump supporter who found your insecurities and biases amplified and reaffirmed by the previous regime, then you’re probably looking at this data and thinking your worst fears have been realized, and that your murderous march on the Capitol was justified. But if you’re a Black American who took to the streets last summer to protest police violence and to seek redress for 400 years of institutionalized racism, then you may be exhaling some small sigh of relief that your voice is being heard as loudly, and with as much long overdue urgency, as white America. “With the BIPOC community and specifically Black voters ensuring Biden’s win, as indicated by the Pew Research survey, 65 percent of us are expecting to see ourselves not only represented but gaining influence in this new administration,” said Kadida Kenner, a Black woman who heads the advocacy group Why Courts Matter. “We are coming to collect our proverbial check to ensure our interests are met.” If you’re an LGBTQ American, who is now enjoying your right to get married like any of your neighbors, you’re probably thinking much the same. Though the nation still has miles to go on such fundamental issues as access to the voting booth, wage equity, and equal protection under the law. “I think people are hungry for a society and a government that reflects the fullness of the American experience,” said state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Philadelphia Democrat who is Black and gay. “People also understand that our commonwealth is better when it is fairer, and [when] those blocking progress have less … [access to] reinforcements. Ask a random person, and they would assume that a lot of what we need to do on equality and police reform are already the law. People are ready, but unfortunately a majority of our politicians are not.” The new Pew data, as The Washington Post notes, is practically a photo negative when it’s put alongside similar Pew data from four years ago, when equal shares of Americans said they expected the wealthy (64 percent), white people (51 percent), men (51 percent), and conservative Christians (52 percent) to wield more clout in the Trump White House. There’s no doubt that the country changed in profound ways during Trump’s chaotic and calamitous four years in office. Some of that damage also has been catalogued by Pew’s researchers. Biden has spent most of his first two weeks, through executive order and legislation, trying to undo the damage of Trumpism. Getting Americans to believe that they’re all rowing in the same direction may be the most towering of those challenges. He also can’t do it alone. - Copyright 2021 John L. Micek, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.