While local election results may indicate otherwise for the majority of area voters, plenty of people were still elated by Joseph R. Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
Austin Johnson, a South Point man who organized a march against racial injustice last year in his town, said he felt the message of Biden’s inauguration speech “rang well.”
“I think he drove home the point that he is a president for all, not just for some,” Johnson said. “I think there was a big difference in the mood here and we’re going to see a return to the norms and decency becoming of the office.”
Johnson, who has been outspoken about the racial discrimination he felt during the Donald Trump years, said the diversity found in Biden’s cabinet picks — and the fact his vice president is a woman of color — “gives me hope.”
“We’re living in a crucial moment in history,” Johnson said. “Just think about the past eight years — we had a Black president, we had marriage equality and now this historical moment, where a woman of color is the vice president. We’re moving forward.”
Suzanne Griffith, a dyed-in-the-wool Westwoodian and Democrat, said seeing VP Kamala Harris get sworn in was a special moment for her.
“It shows my daughter and my granddaughter that this can happen and we are supposed to be equal,” Griffith said.
Jeremy Holbrook, of Ashland, offered similar sentiments.
“I had tears of joy today,” Holbrook said, referring to Harris making history. “The world changed today. Here is a new opportunity for this world.”
Like Johnson, Griffith said she too is looking forward to a return to presidential norms and hopes the country will begin to heal.
“The righteousness and the goodness came through today,” Griffith said. “I want what is best for everybody. I hope that we will one day get past which party somebody is with and look at who they are as people and what they’re doing for their constituents.”
Biden talked about the “uncivil war pitting red and blue,” which resonated with Holbrook, an independent who is “not political at all.”
“One thing I can get behind is our country’s healing and unity,” he said. “We’re on two opposing teams right now. It’s pointing fingers at who’s better … but at the end of the day, should two parties really dictate at all how we treat other people? I think we’re broken in that sense.”
Dicky Martin, best known as Ashland’s play-by-play announcer in boys basketball and football, said he is “playing in the middle.”
“I love my country, so I gotta give this feller (Biden) a chance,” Martin said. “It seems like he has a decent head on his shoulders. Let’s give President Joe Biden a chance. God bless him, now let’s get on with it.
“We’ve gotta move on,” he added. “It’s like the election, was it fixed? I don’t know. Was it not fixed? I don’t know. (Biden) is the President of the United States. It’s final. It’s like winning and losing a ball game. You gotta move on and let’s play.”
Walter Romans, of Carter County, voted for Trump in both of the last two elections, but he agreed about giving Biden a fair shot.
Part of the willingness to give Biden a chance, the registered Democrat said, is due to Trump himself. Romans said he believed Trump meant to make a difference and thought that he would fix many of the country’s problems. He said he could have accomplished more, but he was fought at every turn by the Democrats.
“He started to get a little crazy, and then when he lost the election, and it got a lot worse,” Romans said. “Now, I just think everyone needs to stop arguing with each other. Biden won fair and square, and I think everyone needs to just shut up about it and move on. And I hope Biden does what he says and tries to bring the country back together. That’s what we need.”
Walter Romans’ daughter, Kat Romans, is a Democrat who has no desire to change party affiliation because she believes the Democratic Party is more concerned with addressing issues such as social injustice.
“I think Joe Biden will do some good,” she said, although her first choice was Bernie Sanders. “And I was glad to get Trump out of there.”
Angela Baldwin, a registered Republican from Boyd County, said she doesn’t vote a straight-party ticket but prefers to choose based upon the merits of the individual candidate. She voted for Trump in 2016, but not in 2020.
“I just wasn’t impressed by what either had to offer this time,” she said, adding she felt both sides are somewhat out of touch with the needs of the American people.
“It isn’t that I disliked the inauguration speech,” Baldwin said. “It was just that I had heard similar things before. I am willing to give President Biden the benefit of the doubt, but at this point I need to be shown that it is more than words.”
Registered Independent Andy Roberts, of South Shore, said, “Seems like they snatched the fiddle out of Nero's hands, and now we're back to quiet, behind-the-scenes corruption.”
Roberts further commented that “if the problems that led to Trump getting elected aren't addressed, him, or, God forbid, someone like him but one who is actually skilled at politics will be right back in. I'm not certain Biden's capable or even willing to fix those problems.”
“I do appreciate that there was no jabs at Trump or Republicans in that speech,” he added. “And the fact that he speaks like a high school junior, and not a fifth-grade bully, is nice.”
Marcus Woodward, a member of the Kentucky Democratic Party Executive Committee, said he felt like the inauguration was “tastefully done and restored dignity to the Capitol” in light of the riot a mere 14 days prior.
Woodward said he hopes Biden will pivot toward COVID-19 and help de-politicize the issue.
“Unity is what we’re going to need in order to beat that kind of thing,” Woodward said. “At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter if your state is red or blue, what matters is get something done to help the taxpayer.”
However, Woodward said he hopes with that unity comes accountability.
“We need to hold people accountable for what they did with our tax dollars over the past four years,” Woodward said. “There’s going to be people who say looking into that isn’t unifying, but to sweep these crimes under the rug only allows it to fester.”
Andrea Hunt, a retired nurse living in Ashland, said she expects the intent — to unify the country — will be realized.
"Anyone listening to that speech had to be moved to want to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem," she said. "From the moment President Biden entered D.C. last night and held the memorial service asking Congress leaders from both parties to accompany him to church this morning, there is no doubt that what he seeks and believes in deeply is that together we can do anything. It’s going to be an uphill battle, but there was hope for everyone in his words.”
She found the speech encouraging.
"Considering everything our nation has been through these past two weeks, to hear such a compassionate speech, and urgency to unite, made my heart soar," she said. "Many things President Biden said, such as 'We must end this uncivil war,' made me proud to be an American."
Catlettsburg resident Alvin Blanton was pleased with the speech.
"The most decisive, unifying and heartfelt speech ever given by an incoming president to take on the challenge of healing a broken democracy,” he said. “The beginning of a 'National Renewal.'"
A spokesperson for the Republican Party of Kentucky sent an automated email stating they were out of the office until Jan. 25 when asked for comment. The President of the Boyd County Republicans declined an interview, only stating, “I expect it to be more peaceful than the last one we had,” in a reference to the property damage carried out by some anti-Trump demonstrators in 2017.
Other area conservatives offered statements referring to voter fraud, but they did not feel comfortable being quoted in the newspaper.