The Atlantic Daily: The Riot Sympathizers Aren’t Going Away

America’s divisions won’t disappear under President Biden. How do we move forward? Then: Do coronavirus vaccines still work against mutated variants?

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In his inaugural address, President Biden called for unity. He’ll find plenty of work to do in pursuit of that goal: America’s new president oversees a country brutally divided.

Last week, my colleague Anne Applebaum reported that “32 percent [of Americans] were still telling pollsters that Biden was not the legitimate winner.” And the group of insurrectionists who mobbed the Capitol on January 6—and the millions of Americans who sympathize with them—aren’t going away.

Unity requires hard work and accountability, or it risks granting unearned forgiveness for harmful transgressions.

Coexistence with riot sympathizers might be the only way forward.

“Although Trump will eventually exit political life, the seditionists will not,” Anne writes. She explores how the country could employ peacekeeping strategies used abroad.

Congress must convict Trump to deter future attacks.

In the forthcoming impeachment trial, “the Senate must make clear that attempted coups, no matter how clumsy or ineffective, are the type of crime that is answered with swift and permanent exile from American political life,” Adam Serwer writes.

The Capitol riot could drive GOP defectors into the president’s camp.

“If Biden could lastingly attract even a significant fraction of the Republican voters dismayed over the riot, it would constitute a seismic change in the political balance of power,” our polling expert Ronald Brownstein notes.

Maybe “unity” is not what American needs right now.

“Questing for unity without executable ways to hold bad actors accountable will render the pursuit useless,” the writer and professor Syreeta McFadden argues.

One question, answered: Will the vaccines work against the mutated coronavirus strains?

Our staff writer Sarah Zhang reports:

In a word, yes.

But in a few more words: There are three separate variants of major interest right now, first detected in the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil, respectively. The more transmissible U.K. variant doesn’t seem to affect the efficacy of the vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna at all. But the South Africa and Brazil variants share a trio of particularly worrisome mutations.

Data today from Moderna suggest that vaccine-induced antibodies are not able to bind the South Africa variant as well as they do the usual virus—but they still work well enough to be protective. That’s because the vaccine normally stimulates many times more antibodies than the minimum necessary to protect against the virus.

Out of prudence, though, Moderna is looking into how an additional shot of its vaccine or an updated booster based on the South Africa strain could protect against waning immunity, especially in the long term as the virus continues to evolve. But for now, the most important thing is to keep vaccinating as fast as we can.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved isolation activity:

Revisit the TV of the Trump era. The best shows of the past four years, Sophie Gilbert argues, looked away from the 45th president.

Today’s break from the news:

Hank Aaron died at 86. The home-run record-setter and baseball star was “was a quiet leader who unflinchingly risked his life in the name of racial justice.”