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Thu, Feb. 25

Column | Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey: Inaugurating a president is a sacred tradition

The inauguration of a president marks one of our country’s most sacred traditions: the peaceful transfer of power. Since March 4, 1801, when Thomas Jefferson assumed the presidency from John Adams, America’s leaders have strengthened and renewed our founding ideals, as political rivals put our democratic form of government above their personal differences.

And so, it is today, when Joe Biden becomes our 46th president. President-elect Biden and I have numerous differences about the size, scope and role of government. I will never hesitate to share my views about the policies that impact Arizona, but ultimately, even if we don’t agree, I think our new president wants to serve our country. I’m honored to attend his inauguration and represent Arizona.

The ceremony will hopefully stand in sharp contrast to the sad spectacle we saw on Jan. 6. Violence and destruction have no place in a building dedicated to debate and deliberation. This is something else all of us can agree on. It must never happen again.

Regardless of who occupies the White House or which party has the majority in Congress, our nation is confronted by a series of real challenges that can’t be kicked down the road. Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic must be at the top of our national to-do list, and on this states and the new administration can surely find common ground. This public health crisis is the test of our time and the only way to beat it is by working together.

But the pandemic is just the beginning. What’s the best way to create jobs? Prepare our children for the 21st century? Deal with our aging infrastructure? Tackling these problems will require something that has been all too rare in Washington: common sense and problem solving. And both our new president and elected leaders in Washington would be wise to look beyond the Potomac – to state capitols across the country, where governors have been working across party lines to produce results for their constituents.

President Trump’s administration brought a welcome and needed approach of working directly with the nation’s governors, both Democrat and Republican, to get things done. The Biden administration would be well served to continue in this spirit.

In Arizona, our citizens are essentially evenly divided between registered Republicans, Democrats and independents, and that reality shapes our approach to public policy. There are extremes at both ends of the spectrum, to be sure. But our willingness to cross the aisle for the greater good has enabled us to achieve once-in-a-generation water conservation reform, American civics as a requirement to graduate from high school and the nation’s first universal recognition of occupational licensing. Our aggressive action against the opioid epidemic received the support of every single member of our Legislature, Republicans and Democrats. This wasn’t window dressing – it was real policy. When’s the last time that happened in Washington, D.C.? In fact, more than 90 percent of all legislation I’ve signed as governor has passed with bipartisan support.

The results speak for themselves. Before the pandemic, Arizona was one of the best states in the nation for job creation and personal income growth. Today, we still are. And we will hold that title as we chart our post-pandemic future. In the spending plan I released last week, Arizona’s budget continues to be responsible and balanced as we make a record investment in K-12 education and propose a reduction in taxes for individuals and businesses.

These are not Republican successes or Democratic successes. They are Arizona successes. In our state, we recognize what needs to be done, and we get to work for the people we were elected to serve. The same thing is happening in state capitols across the country, from Massachusetts to Utah. Washington should take note, because our nation’s governors have demonstrated the ability to get things done, even during these times when our nation feels divided.

President-elect Biden has spoken frequently of the friendship and productive relationship he had with Sen. John McCain. In the tearful eulogy Biden delivered at the Arizona lawmaker’s funeral, he said they were both “cockeyed optimists” who shared the belief that there wasn’t a single thing America couldn’t achieve.

After a year like 2020, we all could use a healthy dose of optimism. And we could all benefit from recalling the words of Sen. McCain when he conceded the hard-fought presidential election of 2008 to Sen. Barack Obama: “Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans.”

(Doug Ducey is the governor of Arizona. This op-ed first appeared in The Hill.)

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