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Opinion: How a Biden-Harris unity plan can pair idealism with pragmatism

November 18, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Historian Peniel Joseph describes calls for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to make overtures to Trump voters as "reconciliation on the cheap." Joseph argues that historical examples could inspire a more authentic vision of unity that centers racial justice.

Unity isn't placating the feelings on the "other side. " Recognizing that the over 73 million Americans who voted for Trump seem committed to a presidency based on racial division and a party that revels in voter suppression is the first step toward achieving any kind of national unity under a Biden-Harris administration.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act banned racial discrimination in public education and employment and successfully included women as a protected class against gender bias, while the 1965 Voting Rights Act offered the most far-reaching legislation to protect voting rights in American history.

Before a joint congressional address and a national television audience, President Johnson announced his support for sweeping voting rights legislation and presented a unifying vision to put racial justice at the center of efforts to strengthen American democracy.

The President amplified the political mobilizing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the voting rights organizing of Black women and men at the ground level.

The Great Society's ambitious efforts to end poverty, promote racial integration, Black citizenship and dignity represent one of the most important efforts to promote racial and political reconciliation in American history.

Of course, not all of Johnson's legislative achievements proved successful, in part because of the Vietnam War's increasing stranglehold on the President's attention and public resources, but also because of longstanding racial wounds that Americans (including at times Johnson) refused to acknowledge.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went from LBJ ally to staunch critic as he correctly interpreted declining Great Society resources being diverted toward the Vietnam War. President-elect Biden faces an even more divided political landscape than Johnson, but not by much.

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