ANDERSON – Joe Biden campaigned as the candidate who could bring America together, and it’s looking more and more as if he’ll get a chance to try. Not that the current occupant of the White House will make it easy. President Donald J. Trump is on record saying the Democrats are trying to steal the election, and there’s every indication he won’t leave without a fight.

The odds seem good, though, that Biden will take the oath of office in January as the 46th president of the United States. I had hoped for a different outcome. I wanted to see the landslide many of the pollsters had been projecting.

Instead, Biden will be faced with the challenge of leading a polarized nation, a nation the columnist George Will describes as “evenly divided by mutual incomprehension.” Biden won the votes of a record number of Americans, but his opponent had the support of nearly as many.

So far, at least, Biden is striking the right chord. Speaking a day after the election, Biden noted that only three candidates in history had defeated an incumbent president. “When it’s finished, God willing, we’ll be the fourth,” he said. “This is a major achievement. …. And it’s been a long and difficult campaign, but it’s been a more difficult time for our country, a hard time.”

He turned immediately to the task ahead. “Once the selection is finalized and behind us,” he said, “it’ll be time for us to do what we’ve always done as Americans, to put the harsh rhetoric of the campaign behind us, to lower the temperature, to see each other again, to listen to one another, to hear each other again, and respect and care for one another, to unite, to heal, to come together as a nation.”

He insisted he was not as naïve as he might sound. “I know how deep and hard the opposing views are in our country on so many things,” Biden said, “but I also know this as well. To make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies. We are not enemies. What brings us together as Americans is so much stronger than anything that can tear us apart.”

He pledged again to be a president for all Americans. “The presidency itself is not a partisan institution,” he said. “It’s the one office in this nation that represents everyone and it demands a duty of care for all Americans. That is precisely what I will do. I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as I will for those who did vote for me.”

Maybe Biden really is the right man at the right time. Americans on both sides of the political divide are fed up with the partisan bickering that has for so long crippled our nation’s capital. This talk of finding common ground is not a new message for Biden. It’s the same thing he’s been saying since the early days of the campaign. Standing on stage with other presidential hopefuls during the Democratic Primary, Biden spoke fondly of the old days when he managed to get things done by reaching across the aisle.

It’s hard not to be skeptical, of course. Anyone who has seen Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at work over the past dozen years has to entertain at least some doubts that bipartisan cooperation is really possible. Still, if Biden hopes to accomplish anything during his time in office, he’ll have to work with members of both political parties.

He’s been insisting he can do that. He’ll have no choice but to try. 

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana. He can be reached at kelly.hawes@indianamediagroup.com. Find him on Twitter @Kelly_Hawes.