In his inauguration speech, President Joe Biden said that to overcome its problems, America needs “the most elusive of things in a democracy” — unity.
“Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this: bringing America together. Uniting our people. And uniting our nation,” Biden said.
But less than a week into the new administration, many conservatives are already done with the unity talk.
Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly has been the most outspoken, telling Glenn Beck on his television show that the idea of unity is “fool’s gold.”
“We’re not gonna unite. It’s all nonsense,” Kelly said. She added that she likes “a good inauguration and a good speech as much as anybody” and she roots for the country and the president. But she said she objects to the administration’s policies and that her opposition did not diminish because Biden gave a good speech.
“I will object. I will protect my family and what I think is right over Joe Biden’s need for unity, which is false anyway. ‘Unify behind my agenda’ is not a real call for unity,’’ said Kelly, who now has a podcast, “The Megyn Kelly Show.”
Other conservatives on social media have disparaged and mocked Biden’s inaugural theme of unity, given his recent decisions, including his choice of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to head Health and Human Services and his executive orders expanding LGBQT protections on his first day in office.
Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at the conservative thinktank The Heritage Foundation, responded to the executive orders with commentary entitled “After inaugural rhetoric on unity, Biden signs divisive transgender executive order.”
Anderson later described the order as “the culture war ramped up to the nth degree from the president who was talking all about unity and healing the nation.”
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, echoed the skepticism Monday after Biden signed an order that reversed former President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender troops in the military. “Another ‘unifying’ move by the new Administration?” he tweeted.
Two days after the inauguration, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, tweeted, “A radical leftist agenda in a divided country will not help unify our country, it will only confirm 75 million Americans biggest fears about the new administration.”
Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, tweeted, “The Democrats’ real idea of “unity” is to “unite” behind their far-left agenda or get out of the way.”
Meanwhile, Democrats are also weighing in on what it takes to achieve unity, in ways that might not appeal to McDaniel and other Republicans. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, for example, said on CNN recently that unity begins with accountability, and that “if you want to have unity, then get on board with the things the American people want to see us do.”
Unity starts with accountability. And unity means doing things that the American people want us to do—like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, canceling student loan debt, expanding Social Security, and ensuring universal child care and universal pre-K. pic.twitter.com/O5QiQgAqWo— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 25, 2021
And radio show host Rush Limbaugh said the forthcoming impeachment trial, the second for Trump, shows that talk of unity is “bogus.”
“... There may yet be a vote on conviction. And that is not gonna unify the country. Far from it,” Limbaugh said.
Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who is GOP chair McDaniel’s uncle, disagrees on that point, saying on Fox News Sunday, “If we’re going to have unity in our country, it’s important to recognize the need for accountability, for truth and justice.”
As for Biden, he hasn’t directly responded to critics who say there’s a deep divide between his inaugural words and his recent actions. But his speech on Jan. 20 noted that he doesn’t have to get everybody on board with his plans.
In difficult moments in the country’s history, Biden said, “enough of us” have come together to carry all of us forward, he said, repeating “enough of us” for emphasis.
“Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war,” he said.