As I watched the confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees for attorney general and secretary of state, I was reminded of just how divided this nation has become. The American public agrees on very little. Divergent philosophies prevail. Cultural wars continue. The disruptive protests at these hearings were most troublesome. Even though the protesters had a right to exercise free speech, the outbursts demonstrated the significant divide that resides in the country today. This divide existed before the 2016 presidential election; however, it has been exacerbated by the outcome of that election.
Unfortunately, rampant division in America only threatens our democracy, weakens our prestige, and encourages boldness in our enemies. Yes, America has enemies—and not just ISIS. The cohesiveness and resolve of the United States have historically been one of the major strengths of this nation. America has been viewed as the leader of the free world and the primary example of freedom and democracy. Divisions in the nation are threatening to tear that fabric of unity and strength asunder.
A primary example of division is race, but the issues of class, income disparateness, and political philosophies also threaten the cohesiveness of this country. The challenge for the new Washington administration is to bridge these divides. During the campaign, President-elect Trump addressed many of these threating issues in platitudinous, vague ways. The challenges to resolving these divisions are enormous.
Yes, things have changed in Washington. Simply watching the new Congress operate is a prime example of this change. By controlling all three major centers of government, the Republicans will act very differently than the previous Congress where the Democrats controlled the White House. The old political adage, “to the victor belongs the spoils,” still applies. The Democratic party and much of America needs to now accept this fact. The election is over. Some won, some lost. Yet, this nation is in need of reaching consensus and some semblance of unity.
Bridging the wide gaps will not be an easy task, but try we must. This must happen for the good and future of the country. Perhaps, not since the end of the Civil War have we as a nation so greatly needed unification.
In periods of military conflict and threats to our democracy, this nation has been unified and committed to the preservation of our democracy. This nation is currently under the threat of attack from enemies who wear no uniform, speak many languages, and seek to destroy the American way of life. These enemies hate our basic values. Internal divisions only serve to allow these enemies better opportunities to defeat us at home and abroad.
The issue of race is multifaceted. It includes economics, education, and employment. These three core issues present, perhaps, the biggest challenge facing the nation. The new Congress and the new administration need to recognize that these critical issues affect most Americans, especially the middle class, which really does still exist in the United States.
In 1968, the Kerner Report was released following the race riots of 1967. One major conclusion that the report declared was: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”
This fact is as salient today as in 1968. Perhaps more so. A paramount challenge for the Trump administration and the 115th Congress will be to unify the country to ensure that the United States is, indeed, a country.