Official portrait of Vice President Joe Biden in his West Wing Office at the White House, Jan. 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Dear President-Elect Biden: Heal the country. Pardon Trump

Dear President-Elect Biden: Heal the country. Pardon Trump

By Skyler Oberst

Dear President-Elect Biden, 

As the coming months will undoubtedly bring challenges and discord, I hope we can cut through the noise for a moment and discuss the important work ahead of us as a nation in earnest: healing the country and uniting our nation. 

It hardly bears mentioning we now live in a country where many hardly ever venture out beyond their own comfortable realities and meet their neighbors. Perhaps the one thing that we all agree on is that we are tired and scared. Americans are now more divided than any other time in a generation. We are tired of waking up and thinking about what will be said next. It leaves no room for anyone else. A global pandemic rages. The economy is in disarray. A national conversation on race is being held. And half the country is apparently not willing to listen. 

If I’m being honest, I justified my misgivings and uncertainty by focusing it all on one man, your soon-to-be predecessor. In my fear and anger, I found it was easier for me to spend the last four years building his political gallows than to building bridges for our country’s moral infrastructure. I woke up and realized that this isn’t who I want to be, nor where I’d like my country to go. I’m ready to acknowledge my own hand in this divide. And I’m ready to move forward. 

Eyes on National Progress

The American people need a reminder that national leadership isn’t rooted in partisan identity, but in the self-evident truth that the American spirit is best seen when we are setting aside old divides and working together for national progress. This type of leadership is often controversial, and even met with resistance. The best examples of our nation’s leadership are level-headed and based on deeper truths that remind us of who we are and what the nation needs. 

We’ve done it before. After wars, economic collapses and even pandemics. We need a reminder of who we are as a country. That is why I ask you to pardon President Donald Trump. 

Presidents have always used their powers to point us in the direction of a better tomorrow. Washington pardoned members of the Whiskey Rebellion. FDR pardoned bootleggers after prohibition. President Ford pardoned Nixon “to help the country move forward.” Perhaps the most poignant and relevant example that comes to mind is Lincoln pardoning confederates. “To silence the agitator,” he wrote, “and save the boy, is not only constitutional, but, withal, a great mercy.”

Show Mercy

That type of mercy that can bind up our wounds, Joe. Send a message to the world that efforts to divide the American people have failed and we’re no longer baited into turning against one another and we are, as ever before, a people who are united. Send a message to the country. Set an example for us to follow. Let us be defined not by the box we checked in this election, but by how we treat those who disagree with us. 

Many, including myself, have been ostracized by the policies of the Trump administration. While the best way to dismantle the institutional and structural racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia is through strident policy change, the moral decay we have experienced must be addressed boldly and quickly. We must acknowledge these realities. We must learn from them and address them.  And then we must heal them. We cannot do that in earnest if this man hovers over us all beyond sowing discord. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of this often, noting that “hatred is a sickness, and you don’t get angry with sick people you heal them”.

How are we to do this? The best example I can give comes from my faith. I’ve been taught that it takes radical love to defeat radical evil. It takes a special type of leader to understand the moral landscape of America and choose the road less taken— the moral high road. I think Trump could use a rest from leadership. A pardon from you would retire him and his vitriol. It will be uncomfortable, and challenge many of us on both sides. But it hints at bringing back humility and a sense of decency to our politics. I believe that you might be that leader, Joe. 

Settle The Score

Let’s be honest: Trump will still be Trump outside the White House. The tweets will continue. The lies will continue. He may even refuse your pardon. But what he cannot argue is the fact that you were no longer interested in his tweets, but being president to all Americans— not just the ones who voted for you. Take the wind out of the sails of the conspiracy theories, the hate and the preoccupation with one man’s ego. You and I can agree that settling scores has gotten us nowhere in the last four years. I’m ready to let go of the Trump years. Healing the country is more important than my personal views of this man. 

In a time of division, we need bold leadership rooted in moral principle and commitment to the larger American ideals of hope and our country aches for a leader interested in doing the difficult thing for the greater good. Alexander Hamilton observed that presidential pardons had the power to “restore the tranquility of the commonwealth” and promote conciliation. After four years of heightened anxiety, I think that sounds like a good start.

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