No Mercy No Malice

The Disorienting Shock of Business as Usual

The S&P 500 registered the best Inauguration Day return since Reagan’s second term

The most striking thing about this abnormal inauguration? The normalcy.

The normalcy of a president speaking calmly. Speaking of unity and of a nation coming together. A president who is credible when he says it.

The normalcy of a previous, if not the prior, Republican president, saying to the incoming Democrat, “Mr. President, I’m pulling for your success. Your success is our country’s success and God bless you.”

The incoming president taking his oath to protect the Constitution on a Bible that has been in his family since 1893. Not using a borrowed book for a photo opportunity amidst clouds of tear gas.

46 knows loss and knows grief, and will draw on those experiences to preside over a nation that is losing 4,000 souls a day to a pandemic. It’s the exact right time for Biden to be president, with his ability to console, to grieve, and to unify.

Biden did just this even before becoming president: At the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, he honored the 400,000 Americans who have already died during the pandemic.

His predecessor’s last act was to pump his fist in defiance, brag about his “accomplishments,” and fly away just after dawn to a blaring “My Way.”

The damage of social media and Fox News propaganda remains: 73% of Republicans still believe the 2020 election was marred by widespread voter fraud. The hate machines whir on.

As Yale professor Tim Snyder put it, Trump is “a president who doesn’t believe in choosing presidents.” This week the nation chose a president whose theme was “unity,” not “carnage,” and who promised that if we come together as a nation, “I guarantee you, we will not fail.”

The market mirrored the incoming president’s optimism: The S&P 500 registered the best Inauguration Day return since Reagan’s second term.

And so we saw the return of serious people doing serious work. At her first press conference, Jen Psaki said that while we “will disagree… we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people.” On Inauguration Day four years ago, Melissa McCarthy’s double raised his voice in an attempt to gaslight the nation about crowd size.

The day was moving and sincere. I couldn’t shake the shock of normalcy. To have once again a figure in power who speaks in a decent, dignified, unifying manner.

A president who had the confidence and humility to cede the stage. For surely he knew the highlight would not be his inspiring words at all, but the words and presence of a 22-year-old poet, Amanda Gorman, who set the nation on a new and welcome course:

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it

Somehow we do it

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken

but simply unfinished

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it

This was an emotional day, and it felt as if the nation collectively exhaled.

I’m an atheist… but God bless America, the 46th president, and Amanda Gorman. Oh, and this guy.

Life is so rich,


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Prof Marketing @NYUStern · Founder @L2_digital @redenvelope @prophetBrand · Contributor @bloombergtv · Cohost Pivot podcast · Weekly musings

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