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Biden supporters in Vermont and New Hampshire cheer new administration

  • Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, as their children Ashley and Hunter watch.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool) Andrew Harnik

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2021 10:51:11 PM
Modified: 1/20/2021 11:01:04 PM

Since former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was an early supporter of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, it’s no surprise that Shumlin greeted Wednesday’s inauguration with optimism.

But looking around a deeply divided country, with political partisans having retreated into their own corners and listening to their own personalized news feeds, with 400,000 dead from the novel coronavirus, the economy in tatters, a massive federal debt, climate change and a whole host of other issues, how much optimism is warranted?

A lot, Shumlin and other Biden supporters said.

“If you had said to me, ‘Of all the people you worked with in government, all these years, if you were to pick the top three people who are genuine, compassionate, honest and who think about you more than me,’ I would have picked Joe Biden,” Shumlin, a Democrat from Windham County who served three terms as governor after winning election in 2010, said on the eve of Biden’s inauguration.

Shumlin acknowledged that the challenges facing the Biden administration constitute “the most miserable assignment that anybody could ask for.” Biden is “the perfect person” to address those challenges.

He will move aggressively to “beat COVID,” Shumlin said. “You’ll see him move from an economy that serves those who have” to one that serves working people.

He’ll move on infrastructure and on green energy, both of which will provide jobs, Shumlin said.

The Republican governors of Vermont and New Hampshire both issued statements Wednesday congratulating Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and wishing them well. Vermont’s Phil Scott took note of the many challenges the new administration will face.

“But perhaps the most challenging task before them will be healing our deeply, and dangerously, divided country,” said Scott, who voted for Biden and called for Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. “President Biden campaigned on bringing people together, working across the aisle and uniting our nation — that is how he earned my vote. After years of intentional division and polarization, driven by the extremes, it is essential that he delivers on that promise — even in the face of the very hostility he has pledged to address. We simply cannot go on like we have if we want America to remain ‘the last best hope on Earth.’ ”

Vermont’s U.S. senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, will play key roles in shepherding Biden’s proposals through Congress, Leahy as president pro tempore and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and Sanders as chairman of the Budget Committee.

In a statement, Leahy, now 80, noted that when he was first elected to the Senate, Biden was the only senator younger than he was. “I’m heartened to welcome our new president and vice president into the especially difficult leadership roles they’re about to assume, because they’re doing it on behalf of all Americans,” Leahy said.

Likewise, Claremont resident Frank Fahey has been following Biden since the now-president was a young senator from Delaware, making an early bid for president.

At a campaign event in Unity in 1988, Fahey asked Biden where he’d gone to law school and how he’d ranked in his class, and Biden effectively stubbed out his campaign when he told Fahey, “I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect.”

Since then, Biden has apologized, publicly and profusely, and Fahey, a retired teacher, said that if there’s a prescription for what ails the country, Biden is it.

“I’ve just followed him very closely from the time that he attacked me down in Unity,” Fahey said Wednesday. “I’ve learned to admire not just the politician, but the man himself.”

Biden’s own suffering, with the deaths of his wife and young daughter in a 1972 car accident, as well as his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015, equips him to understand the suffering of his fellow citizens, Fahey said.

“I think he’s the man who can bring back trust and faith in government,” and win over naysayers, Fahey said.

“I really feel so good,” he said, “not for me, but for this country.”

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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