Op-ed: Give Biden the chance to lead

Louie Kahn is the president of the GW College Democrats, and Josh Kutner is the chairman of the GW College Republicans.

Throughout the past century, sitting presidents who failed to be reelected have always risen to the occasion to call for unity among the American people. In 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter  urged all of his supporters to join him “in a sincere and fruitful effort to support [his] successor when he undertakes this great responsibility.” Twelve years later, then-President George H.W. Bush declared following his electoral loss that “there is important work to be done, and America must always come first. So we will get behind this new president and wish him well.” 

Yet in our present circumstances, President Donald Trump has not only neglected to call upon the American people to unite but, tragically, has continued to foment rancor and discord among his constituents, leading to a violent raid of the U.S. Capitol Building. As a direct result of his failure to lead in this pivotal moment, it falls upon each and every one of us to work to restore the bonds of trust between one another and heal our own wounds of division.

That is why today, we write in our personal capacities as leaders of the GW College Democrats and GW College Republicans to urge all members of the GW community across the political spectrum to give President-elect Joe Biden the opportunity to lead our nation as he assumes office Wednesday afternoon.

We recognize that many of you may not have supported Biden last November. Let us be clear – we are not asking that you set aside legitimate policy concerns or simply acquiesce to the new administration. On the contrary, we seek to rekindle the spirit of civil discourse and sincere debate where those who disagree politically can openly express their beliefs and be listened to earnestly. Returning to an era where good-faith discussion wins out over scoring cheap political points is the clearest path forward to addressing our nation’s present struggles.

Our country is grappling with a series of challenges and converging crises that have adversely impacted every single American. A continuation of the dysfunction and hyperpartisanship we have come accustomed to seeing from D.C. does not serve anyone’s benefit, especially during a time when millions of Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, are crying out for leadership that can only come from public servants who prioritize the needs of their constituents and their oath to the U.S. Constitution above allegiance to any one individual or political party.

The domestic terrorists who stormed the U.S. Capitol earlier this month took the lives of brave law enforcement officers, called for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence and put the lives of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in grave danger as they wreaked havoc within the sacred halls of Congress. These abhorrent actions are a tragic result of public figures who irresponsibly spread baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in an effort to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

As we write this call for unity, we acknowledge that our nation cannot fully heal until those who perpetrated the Jan. 6 domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol are apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This moment also calls for us to put our partisan allegiances aside and ensure that those who helped to incite these seditious riots face serious consequences for their actions and are held fully accountable.

It is no secret that, given our respective positions on campus, we do not agree on much politically. Yet despite our differences, we share the belief that a thriving democracy is essential to the survival of our republic. In an era many have proscribed as the “age of disinformation,” it is more important now than ever before to speak out against those who propagate conspiracy theories and act in ways that intentionally seek to corrode public trust in our institutions and the democratic process. 

When former President Bill Clinton was sworn in nearly 28 years ago, he found a note from outgoing President George H.W. Bush in the Oval Office. Bush ended his letter with words of encouragement for his successor, writing, “Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.”

This encounter between two political rivals is a perfect example of the peaceful transition of power which our nation has cherished for over two centuries and embodies the spirit of bipartisan cooperation which we should strive toward today. We need our leaders to put partisan differences aside and commit to working in pursuit of the best interests of the American people as we navigate through this challenging chapter in our nation’s history.

While we are sure to disagree on actions taken by the Biden administration over these next four years, we are both rooting for Biden as he takes over as the leader of the greatest country in the history of the world. We call on you to join us.

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