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President Biden called for unity during his inauguration this week. It was inspiring for many, but bringing the estranged sides of our country back together won't be so easy.
WBUR's Morning Edition host Bob Oakes sat down with three New Hampshire voters to hear their thoughts on Biden's pitch to the nation.
Oakes was joined by Republican Dan Innis, a professor of marketing and hospitality management at the University of New Hampshire; Sheridan Brown, an attorney and ex-Republican who now identifies as independent; and Eva Castillo, an immigrant advocate and a Democrat.
Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.
On Biden's inaugural speech
Eva Castillo (D): It's refreshing to hear somebody that has empathy and that is all about making amends with the rest of the country; who doesn't have such an ego personality — that isn't all about himself.
Sheridan Brown (i): I was really impressed with the way they put together a full day of activities with the limitations that we've got with COVID. I thought the tone was great. It made me more hopeful. And the focus on the different elements of American society were — for me — they were more valuable than seeing a bunch of people at an inaugural ball that have, you know, spent big money on dresses and tickets and whatnot.
Dan Innis (R): I think it was fine. You know, it's nice that it came off without a hitch. I know the president wants to try to unify us. [But] when you've got a House of Representatives that's impeaching the president and a Senate that may move forward with hearings about conviction, all it's going to do is alienate those folks who still support the former president and it's going to make unifying the nation that much harder.
Brown: I think the problem Republicans have in saying 'Don't impeach, we need to move beyond this in the interest of unity,' is that the messaging for the last couple of months just was not there. I mean, there was the promotion of the 'big lie' that the vote was stolen and all of this lead up to what happened on January 6th -- this insurrection. And so to now turn around and say 'Oh, we've got to move beyond it,' is very convenient. ... And I don't think that holding people accountable for what they do and say, particularly in elected office, is in any way counter to the spirit of unity. I think we should be unifying on having an honest country.
Castillo: I think it was a good move because — I understand freedom of speech — but again, you have to face the consequences for the actions that you do — and for your words in this case. ... You can say anything you want about immigrants or whatever, but do not spread falsehoods.
Innis: I have a real problem with censorship by these social media companies. They are open platforms. There's no paywall. It is the public domain. Anyone can access them at any time. Who decides what should and should not be heard? Who decides what is misinformation? And it might be my side today that's facing this; it could be yours the next time, Sheridan and Eva.
Brown: I enjoy hearing Dan talk about this because this disposition does not square very well with where Republicans have been on net neutrality. You have the Internet, which is arguably a public utility, and you have Republicans that staunchly go to bat for corporations ... To set up different speed tiers and charge people differently and in essence, censor certain Internet speech through those practices. And, you know, then you have something like Twitter or Facebook. It's essentially a website, a platform. Other people could [build] it. And that is not arguably a public utility; it's a private service that's out there. You have a contract that you enter into with the company — you may not pay them anything — but your consideration for the use of their service is that you're going to adhere to their terms.
On President Biden's executive order to rejoin the Paris climate accord
Innis: The Paris climate accord I have an issue with. China is trying to diminish the role of the United States in the global economy and China doesn't have to meet any of these standards for some time, and yet America does. So we're going to put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage and we're going to see more of our factory jobs pushed over to China where there are no emission controls! If we're going to have a climate accord, everyone needs to be involved at the same level, on the same playing field.
Brown: I am excited to see these [federal] agencies headed by people that actually are mission driven and want to protect the environment, versus gutting the protections we have in place. And I'm optimistic that we can get something done on climate change because I think it is a place where there's room for compromise in the Congress. If we wait on every other country to go as far as we're willing to go, we're never going to get it done. And that just dooms everyone.
On Biden's plan to provide DACA recipients with a path to citizenship
Castillo: I am ecstatic about that. But at the same time, it's just a cautious optimism because we've been promised many things before and it doesn't happen. We know we have an uphill battle still.
Innis: I think most Republicans, including myself, have a pretty simple position: Follow the law. We have a process to allow people to get in. I've said for a long time, though, that we need to streamline the immigration process. It shouldn't take years to get it done. That's a deterrent, and it pushes people to come here illegally. And I think Eva and I kind of agree on this.
Castillo: Yeah, no, I agree. ... But I also hope that the president is willing to address the issues in Central America — to really address the roots of migration.
On whether Trump should run again in 2024
Innis: No, I don't think he should. I think it's time for us to move past the Trump presidency and in four years, past the Biden presidency. And then on to something else.
This segment aired on January 22, 2021.
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