Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. stood at the very site where far-right insurrectionists had stormed the Capitol two weeks earlier to be sworn in as president on Jan. 20, and pleaded for unity at one of the most polarized moments in the nation’s history — a moment some Franklin Square and Elmont community members found hopeful, and others thought was disingenuous.
“Realistically, I think it was just a reversal of the 2016 election,” Joseph Vitaliano, of Franklin Square, wrote in response to a Herald social media inquiry about people’s thoughts on the historic day. “This time Democrats won, and Republicans have to grapple with the same feelings Democrats felt at the time that they openly mocked Democrats for feeling.”
Biden became the oldest president in American history, at 78, and Kamala Harris was the first female, first Black and first Asian-American to become vice president. “The inauguration means a lot of different things to different people, but for most, it was historic for women everywhere,” wrote Sarah Campbell, of Elmont. “No matter your political views, religion or race, this was a tremendous accomplishment for our daughters to have to break one less barrier.”
Campbell’s friend Renee Williams added that Harris’s ascent “showed us what we can all achieve no matter your gender, color or race.” Carl Gerrato, of Franklin Square, meanwhile, wrote that Biden’s victory proved that “age is meaningless.”
Yet just one-quarter of registered Republicans believe the 2020 election was conducted fairly, according to a December study by National Public Radio, PBS NewsHour and Marist College. At protests across the country since the Nov. 3 election, many have echoed the unfounded claims of a fraudulent election, but Mario Scirica, of Franklin Square, wrote of Biden, “Regardless of how he won, he’s the president of the United States.”
“As Americans,” Scirica continued, “we should not wish bad on the economy, his health, or failure of his power because we all live here, and this is still our one nation under God.”
Lisa Mariano, another Franklin Square resident, wrote that she was “willing and happy to accept a change that makes our country more united and stronger.”
“What unsettles me, though,” Mariano added, “is from the moment Biden won the election, he and all the Democrats spoke about the importance of supporting a new president. It’s unfortunate that the same idea wasn’t given to [former President] Trump after his win four years ago.”
As president, Biden said, he would seek to unify the polarized nation, which, Michael Hilt, of Elmont, called “a real breath of fresh air after four years of seemingly non-stop political infighting.”
Michael Russo, of Franklin Square, added that he thought it would be “gratifying to see real professionals run our country again, and after four years of endless lies and distortions — with over 30,000 false or misleading statements made since Trump was inaugurated, according to The Washington Post — it will be a pleasure to have a president who has the capacity to be honest with the American people.”
Rony Kessler, of Franklin Square, who wrote daily social media posts about the Trump administration, said he “looks forward to a president that is competent, focused, and most important, compassionate.”
During Trump’s presidency, Simmonie Swaby Gordon, of Elmont, wrote she felt unsure about her family’s place in the United States. Now, she said, “I feel a certain hope that this country will witness an age of rebirth that may not unite such a fractured nation, but will bring us back to an age of decency and maturity in politics.”
“I understand that not everyone will agree with the policies that he promotes and that he will pursue,” Kessler wrote of Biden, “but that is normal.”
In his first three days in office, Biden signed more than 30 executive orders, actions and memorandums, among them mandating masks on public transportation, and rejoining the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, actions that Vitaliano said he was extremely pleased with.
Nearby residents such as Patty Labetti Hettich, of Garden City South, however, said she feared that the Biden-Harris administration would “destroy all the good” Trump has done, calling the former president “the best we’ve had.” And Laura Griffith, an Elmont native now living in Floral Park, said she thought the actions Biden had taken thus far “have all been against the American people.”
Rejoining the Paris Agreement and the WHO, Griffith wrote, would cost the country millions of dollars, and by revoking the Keystone XL pipeline permit, she added, Biden would eliminate thousands of jobs and make the U.S. more reliant on foreign oil.
“His speech of unity was a joke,” Griffith said, echoing a claim Sen. Rand Paul made recently on Fox News that when Biden said that white supremacy and domestic terrorism must be confronted and defeated, he was calling all Republicans white supremacists and domestic terrorists. At the same time, Griffith wrote, Biden has denied that Black Lives Matter did millions of dollars in damage at protests over the past eight months.
“Biden is not my president of choice,” Griffith said. “I will, however, respect the president, unlike the left, who continually marched around disrespecting President Trump.”
If the administration can effectively unite the nation, Hilt wrote in a three-page analysis of the Trump presidency he sent to the Herald, he believes “the American people will recognize the imperative role experience plays in competent and effective government, and the negative undertones placed on being a ‘Washington insider’ will be replaced with respect.”