Near the end of Joe Biden’s inauguration, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman offered a poem called “The Hill We Climb” to punctuate the event. She performed extremely well, and her poem was powerful and quite nicely written. But it was something more than that. Hers were the most honest remarks of the day in terms of what the American left actually believes.
These lines stood out as rather important, especially compared to the other speakers:
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it,
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
It can never be permanently defeated.
At the top of the poem, Gorman writes, “We have braved the belly of the beast.” She also wrote that we were not prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
One of the nice things about writing a poem as opposed to a speech is that double meanings are encouraged. In this case, we have to ask, was the “force that would shatter our nation” limited to the attackers of the Capitol? Or does it refer to Trump supporters more generally? The answer to that question may well depend on what side of the aisle you are on. But for many or even most progressives, it is assuredly the latter.
That these more extreme ideas would be expressed more directly in a poem than in Biden’s speech makes sense and is telling. Biden is still walking the line he has for two years now between the woke sensibilities of the progressive left and the more traditional views of most Democratic voters outside of progressive bastions. He paid lip service to the idea that some large numbers of Americans are basically racist but did not linger on the point. On the other hand, he is undoing Trump’s 1776 Project educational executive order intended to bring more patriotism and love of country back to our children’s educations.
Conservatives failed by and large to convince independents that Biden was a Trojan horse for progressivism, and not for lack of trying. Biden’s age, presence in politics for so long, and past association with the moderate wing of the Democratic Party hurt those efforts. So did Biden’s refusal to actually campaign and the corporate news media’s lack of curiosity as to what he actually planned to do as president. In the last ceremony before entering the White House, Biden still seems on the fence, or if not actually on the fence, like someone who very much wants to appear to be.
It is difficult to know what this all means for vaster Democratic Party goals of court-packing and statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Those are somewhat outside his control. But at least on cultural matters, Biden seems unlikely to draw any lines in the sand on issues of race, gender, or whether the United States has a history deeply steeped in evil. This is an opportunity for conservatives.
Growing numbers of Americans of all demographic groups are becoming increasingly disturbed by what their kids learn in school, by their daughters competing against boys in athletics, by the idea that they are deplorable and must be deprogrammed. Biden is likely to quietly support all of these things. Sign the orders but bury the news, just like putting the most forceful condemnation of Trump and his supporters in a poem after he spoke, not in a sound bite from his own remarks.
On some level, Donald Trump’s presidency took the sting out of accusations of racism or bigotry against those who do not hold progressive moral and social values. Republicans should not be shy about these issues. Rather they should face them directly as Trump did.
Much is undecided and unknown as we embark on the administration of President Joe Biden. One thing is not. Conservatives will not return to a prone, defensive position on issues of race and culture, nor should they. The post-Trump conservative movement will be culture warriors who look a lot more like Andrew Breitbart than Mitt Romney. That is progress, and it must be maintained.