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Opinion: Biden’s progressive agenda will not foster authentic unity

Barring a change of heart, Biden’s ideological baggage on social issues including abortion threatens to keep divided Americans’ passions at boiling point.

Joe Biden clasps his hands in prayer position during a news conference at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Del., Jan. 6, 2021. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

With searing images of mob violence at the U.S. Capitol fresh in memory, Joe Biden comes to the presidency as a potential healer of divisions and binder up of wounds. Yet his own prior commitments could prevent him from succeeding in those roles.

No matter how you feel about Biden, that would be bad news, not just for him but for a nation desperate for unity in the wake of shocking evidence of how deeply divided it really is.

Certainly Biden recognizes the fractured state of the country. Shortly before demonstrators invaded the Capitol, he said Americans “demand action and they want unity.” Then he added “we can deliver both.” But barring a change of heart, his ideological baggage on social issues including abortion threatens to keep divided Americans’ passions at boiling point.

It’s not all his doing of course. President Trump’s strident rhetoric and legal maneuvering to overturn the November vote–despite repeated rebuffs by dozens of courts–bore bitter fruit in the outrage at the Capitol and create a pervading mood of suspicion ominously unlike the restored comity that customarily follows elections.

Viewed in broader perspective moreover, the sense that the bonds of national unity were becoming dangerously frayed dates back well before the election.

How bad has it gotten? Here’s one symptom. Conservative commentator David French lately published a book called Divided We Fall warning of the real possibility of national breakup via secession in reaction against America’s ongoing “remaking” by secularist progressives. Not only that–a reviewer criticized French for not taking the assault on traditional values seriously enough.

That review, by Notre Dame political scientist Vincent Phillip Munoz in First Things, is worth quoting in its own right for its summary of the secessionist thesis: “The continued unity of the United States is not certain. America may break apart into two or more nations, because Americans are no longer one people. We lack a common culture, we live separately, we believe in different things, we increasingly loathe our political opponents. And things are only getting worse.”

To which Munoz adds that French’s proffered response to the crisis–a relatively modest set of procedural fixes–falls short of its dimensions.

However that may be, the immediate fear arises from the fact that Biden, despite his old shoe, middle-American demeanor, appears to have bought into the progressive agenda. In which case he–and the rest of us, too–can forget about unity.

This is the context for judging the impact of Biden’s outspoken advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ issues and his declared intention–repeated several times during the presidential campaign–to set aside the restrictions on abortion put in place in the Trump years

In an analysis circulated by the International Organization for the Family, veteran pro-family writer and editor Allan Carlson notes that these latter include a pro-family tax policy, a pro-family U.S. role in the United Nations, efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and the appointment of socially conservative federal judges. “Joe Biden will undo all this, as quickly and completely as he can,” Carlson warns.

But give the last word to a card-carrying liberal, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni. Writing of prospects for the Biden presidency, he says: “We’ll either take baby steps back toward a chapter of American government less savagely partisan than the past few years–and decades–have been, or we’ll accept polarization and paralysis as the country’s default setting for the foreseeable future.”

Bruni couldn’t be more right. Joe Biden, are you listening?

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About Russell Shaw 263 Articles
Russell Shaw was secretary for public affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference from 1969 to 1987. He is the author of 20 books, including Nothing to Hide, American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity, and, most recently, The Life of Jesus Christ (Our Sunday Visitor, 2021).


  1. America’s shared common culture once revolved around faith, family, and freedom. Now we are suffering among Godless, selfish individuals who delight in taking away our freedoms in the name of unity. And Joe Biden is their designated driver.

  2. Now that all respectable people have demonstrated their abhorrence for Trump, his supporters and agenda one last time, perhaps they may want to focus on what the looming Biden Administration has in store for us. Consider his Secretary of State nominee, Anthony Blinken. His Wikipedia page provides a pretty good summary of his record. Some of the particulars: He supported invading Iraq in 2003, the surge in Afghanistan, the Libyan War, the efforts to undermine Assad in Syria, and the Saudi war on Yemen. When he isn’t thinking about how to cause trouble in the Middle East, he comes up with ways to antagonize Russia. Perhaps he can unify the neoconservatives of the Republican variety with the neoliberals of the Democrats. There really isn’t much difference between them. As for the Middle Americans who support an America First foreign policy and the the peaceniks, they will have no place at the table.

  3. Our incoming president seems to be in the beginning stages of dementia.

    His incoming V.P. will be waiting impatiently in the wings and she has made no secret of her opposition to our beliefs.

    For laughs – “Fr. James Martin connects Catholic leaders to Capital riots; Bishop Stika unimpressed.”

    Time for prayer and fasting? How about this Wednesday?

  4. There was suspicion about the vote for perfectly legitimate reasons but the anger stemmed from the fact that all of the Democrat-controlled governors and courts in those 7 states REFUSED to even investigate due to political reasons. Our politicians are selling this country down the river but at the same time this country has been allowing it to happen by straying from God. Bible prophesy is once again being fulfilled.

  5. Remember where you were when 9-11 happened? I remember where I was when JFK and MLK were assassinated. And on Jan. 22, 1973, I was a young teacher in a Catholic school classroom and an announcement came across the loud speaker. A sick feeling arose in my stomach, and I could see the bewildered, incredulous looks on the faces of my junior students. It was as if a minor earthquake had rearranged the unquestioned building blocks of our lives. It is my belief that this toxic nodal moment has been a cancer on the conscience and former solidarity of American life (to the degree that existed). The “same sex marriage” decision further rubbed salt in this wound, a wound that may never heal. For it, and LGBT rights, are litmus tests for influence in the public square and politics. This kind of healing requires repentance. While there are other polarizing issues in our country, this one is a cancerous thread that runs through our divisions.

    I certainly do not know THE solution. But as I have opined in these pages over the years, the renewal of Christian marriage and the domestic church is surely one element in a strategy. St. John Paul understood this well, as did the Council in Gaudium et spes. See Familiaris consortio (1981) nos. 65, 70-71.

    Preparation for Holy Orders was renewed after the first wave of clergy sex scandals. Yet after two contentious synods on the family, we still have no national strategy and plan to strengthen sacramental preparation for marriage (the OTHER visible vocation at the service of Communion); we underwhelm and bore parents at baptism preparation, a most critical time in their marital journey. Then they drop out and drop off their children for faith formation. If a Culture of Life is to be built, it must be built organically in the Body of Christ, and that means in the domestic church, beginning with the evangelization, conversion, and formation of husband and wife – understanding and embracing their four-fold mission as St. John Paul defined it.

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