Opinion | The Decency Agenda

Mr. Trump has approached the presidency, as he does all the things, as a zero-sum proposition: To win, another person should lose. Grounded within the politics of division, Trumpism is about perspective. The extra antagonistic, the higher. The president’s re-election marketing campaign needed to “make liberals cry once more.”

This sort of management poisons the physique politic, slightly extra every day. Presidents are function fashions. Their phrases and comportment affect their supporters and, extra typically, set the tone for the nationwide discourse. Mr. Trump has not merely normalized cruelty and boorishness; he has given it the imprimatur of the Oval Workplace.

Certainly one of Mr. Biden’s most elementary jobs might be to mannequin a special management — to reclaim what it means to be presidential in a manner that restores dignity and humanity to the workplace. A few of what this requires is simple: Don’t demean political opponents or fellow world leaders. Don’t insult members of your individual administration. Don’t accuse individuals who merely disagree with you of treason. Don’t have a Twitter tantrum each time your emotions get bruised. Or, perhaps, keep off Twitter altogether.

Extra particularly, Mr. Biden might want to restore and reinforce some guardrails and norms that Mr. Trump tore down, within the recognition that not even presidents are above the legislation. He has already made his tax returns public, a welcome step again towards accountability. Going ahead, he might want to clarify that key establishments — the Division of Justice, the intelligence neighborhood and the army, for starters — might be free from partisan meddling. His administration’s inspectors normal have to be handled as guardians, not turncoats, they usually could should be granted extra protections. He might want to acknowledge that oversight of the chief department is a legit perform of Congress, not one thing to be dismissed out of hand.

Chatting with the considerations of Mr. Trump’s supporters, with out condemnation or condescension, might be essential to Mr. Biden’s unification efforts. It helps that the brand new president has an unpolished, regular-guy enchantment and a knack for connecting on a private degree that retains him from seeming like a snooty elitist. His Catholic religion is essential to him, which is able to resonate in lots of enclaves. In pursuing his governing agenda, disagreements will come up over deeply held beliefs, and the arguments are sure to get heated. However, not like his predecessor, Mr. Biden is aware of the distinction between opponents and enemies.

Mr. Trump has stoked cultural battle — by, as an example, declaring warfare on N.F.L. gamers who kneel in the course of the nationwide anthem. Mr. Biden presumably will discover higher makes use of of his time and vitality. Not each culture-war skirmish deserves presidential involvement, and plenty of could be higher managed with out it. QAnon could also be a disturbing signal of the occasions, but it surely doesn’t but rise to the extent of a presidential speaking level. Neither do the “skinny blue line” flags which can be an indication of police solidarity and, relying on whom you ask, white supremacy.

With the coronavirus holding heart stage, even core culture-war points — abortion, L.G.B.T.Q. rights, non secular freedom, assault weapons — could wind up relegated to the political background. There might be motion on all of those points exterior of Mr. Biden’s management, both in Congress or the courts. However he needn’t have a good time or mourn every of those developments as an existential victory or defeat. Not as a result of they aren’t essential, however exactly as a result of they incite such ardour and fury. All of those questions might be contested lengthy after Mr. Biden’s time period in workplace is over. These long-simmering challenges will nonetheless be there, ready, when the acute trauma of the pandemic has handed and the nation begins its restoration.

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