We are a divided nation. We have always been a divided nation on political issues. But today it is different. In the past our differences evolved into or strengths. That which separated us helped us come together. There was always an underlying belief in America as a melting pot. The one place on earth where anyone from any land, could come, assimilate, and become part of the fabric of the American coat of many colors.
Yes, every group faced discrimination when they first came to America. The Irish during the potato famines, the Germans, the Italians, the Chinese and Japanese, the European Jews, and of course the Black Africans and South of the Border Hispanics all felt discrimination. But they blended and assimilated. Many went on to become some of the most respected people and brilliant people in the American legend. It took the pot a little longer to melt in, in order to become richer for their presence, but it did.
But we've hit a different point in our division. Many of the worries and fears that are associated with the different political positions are no different than they were in previous generations. Are immigrants going to take my job away from me? Are their cultures going to subsume mine? Are they coming here for nefarious reasons? We aren't the first generation to ask these questions and we won't be the last. What we have become, however, is the first generation where the concerns of segments of the nation toward issues of political substance has led to the destruction of civility in the actions of one American to another, one person to another, one American to any other resident of the world. It has almost become an arrogance that says we are going alone. Isolate us from the world in every matter but those that provide economic benefit to us. To hell with you, it's me....me.....me.....!
How did we get here? The easy answer is Donald Trump. But Trump isn't the genesis of the problem, he is the culmination of that problem. He is what the nation gets when the divisions have gotten so deep that we have, in essence become two nations at war with one another. One is looking for the political messiah to lead America to the promised land and will vote for candidates who, without substance or experience, promise that land as easy to reach, if the country only lets him reach it. The other is looking for an individual consumed with policy and seeking the long term solutions that they believe the country requires to reunite.
It is no longer center-right versus center-left politics nor is it really republican versus democratic politics. It even masks the boundaries between traditional conservative versus liberal politics. What our political system has become is the battle between the politics of today....feel good now and damn the consequences, and the politics of tomorrow.....we live in a complex world and the solutions will take time and sacrifice.
We started during the Reagan years when trickle down economics was supposed to become the method by which all Americans would get rich. Make the rich richer, and that wealth will trickle down to the masses. Churches took up the mantra in Prosperity Ministries and suddenly the almighty dollar was everyone's savior. There was just one problem. It didn't work.
As we moved into the 1980s and 1990s, the divisions became larger. Congress was becoming increasingly dominated by ideologues and people who were less and less willing to work across the aisle with the opposition party. The Gingrich's, Pelosi's, McConnell's, and Reed's of this era became more and more interested in partisanship that in legislation. There was still cooperation on many big issues, but the seeds of discontent were being sown.
Then came the election of Barack Obama and the era of absolute obstructionism. The Republican party met and decided to do all they could to insure that President Obama became a one term President. Under the guidance and direction of groups like the TEA party and individuals like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, every effort at non-partisanship was blocked. Congressional approval ratings plummeted to their lowest point in over a century and signature legislation that should have been bi-partisan became force fed through the political system. Everybody hated congress and it was "throw the bums out" time. This time the pendulum began to swing a bit further to the right and a fairly large number of TEA party sympathizers were elected to the House and Senate, pushing these bodies further to the right. The President and his allies responded by moving somewhat further to the left. The great political war was in progress with the American people remaining totally confused about what they wanted.
2012 led to the re-election of President Obama and the continuation of a Republican congress and obstructionism continued. With every passing day, the legislative process ground to a more and more complete halt. Congress in the 2012 session set a record for the least productive congress in history. A record that held until the 2014 congress that broke that record.
By the time we got to the 2016 elections, we were two nations set to choose candidates in two parties that most Americans disliked. It was a race to the bottom with candidates failing to connect with the public on real issues and using rhetoric that could be considered over the top in a third world country. Candidates campaigned toward their bases forgot about the middle. The decision was both split and unanimous. Donald Trump won the electoral college in one of the great upsets in history while losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by over three million votes. Republicans maintained controlled over congress but by narrower margins than they had prior to the election.
The nation was stunned by allegations of hacking of our electoral system by the Russians and collusion by the Trump campaign in that hacking. It didn't get better. As these investigations continued, the Trump administration and the President himself are being investigated for obstruction of justice and financial irregularities. The new President, at a point in his presidency when his popularity should be soaring is finding his approval rating at 36% and falling. Republicans are now concerned about losing at least the House during the 2018 elections.
Through all this the nation remains divided. We are placing personal views above the need to work together for the greater good. Rather than sitting around the family table arguing about sports, or relatives, we argue about politics. Religion or lack of religion has become the great divider rather than the great uniter.We are a country that have allowed the dysfunctions in our elected officials to overflow into the dysfunctions in our own lives.
What do we have to do? The answer is simple. We must start by finding common ground. We must identify issues and find places and sections of that issues that all sides can work with. Then we must elect candidates who will advocate for that common ground regardless of party affiliation. We have to elect representatives who understand that we might elect a republican or a democrat on a ticket, but the person we elect has to represent all of his or her constituents. Party labels have little to do with what is right for a constituency. If we can do these few little things at the ballot box and in congress, we will reacquire a civil debate on issues and have a nation that moves forward once again as the United States of America.