Can Biden lead a divided nation?

Millions of Americans woke up on the morning of Jan. 21 joyous at the realization that Donald J. Trump was no longer president.

Others had a different view.

One video making the rounds on social media featured a woman who appeared to be hysterical over the inauguration of Joe Biden. She apparently believed those who had insisted Trump would find a way to stay in office.

“President Trump, if you see this, please save us, …” she cried. “Please, President Trump. Please, I hope you have a plan. God, please, save us. Save us from the devil, please!”

Biden has issued a call for unity and pledged to be a president for all Americans, but some, like that woman in the video, are not quite ready to embrace him. Perhaps they never will.

Though a Gallup survey found his approval rating at an all-time low in his final days in office, Trump still enjoys significant support within his own party.

According to a Morning Consult poll in the waning days of his presidency, almost 80% of Republican voters at least somewhat approved of his performance. Half strongly approved while only 11% strongly disapproved.

In a survey taken just after some of his supporters stormed the Capitol and just ahead of a House vote to impeach him for an unprecedented second time, the Pew Research Center found that 64% of Republican voters still believed the former president’s claim he won the election. That works out to about 34% of the overall electorate.

For those folks, unity might be out of the question.

Still, the news for Biden is not all bad. That same survey found that 58% of Americans approved of the job he had done in laying out his vision for the country.

When it comes to making that vision a reality, 74% of respondents said the new president should do his best to compromise with Republicans in Congress even if it meant disappointing some of his supporters. At the same time, 66% of respondents said congressional Republicans ought to do their best to find common ground with Biden even at the risk of upsetting their base.

The picture looks a little different, though, when you break down those answers by party.

Nine out of 10 Republicans and more than six out 10 Democrats say Biden should seek common ground, but the parties are far more divided when it comes to congressional Republicans. Republicans support their representatives standing firm by a margin of 59 to 38, while Democrats say they should compromise by a margin of 89 to 9.

It’s not surprising, I guess, that supporters of both parties are more likely to favor the other side giving ground in a negotiation.

Still, it’s worth noting nine out of 10 Republicans support the Democrats backing away from a position while fewer than four in 10 support their own side doing that. Democrats, too, strongly favor the other side giving ground, but most also support the idea of their side taking part in the give and take.

The reality, of course, is that neither party will get everything it wants. With an evenly divided Senate and a requirement most measures gain bipartisan support, neither party will be able to force its will on the other.

Nevertheless, that Pew survey tells us that Americans are fed up with gridlock. They want their new president to get things done.

Of course, they won’t be surprised if he doesn’t. The survey found 46% of respondents saying he’d make things better, 28% saying he’d make things worse and 24% saying he wouldn’t have much of an effect one way or the other.

Let’s hope he beats expectations.

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI newspapers in Indiana. Send comments to [email protected].