WASHINGTON: Nothing is more unifying than a common enemy. Winston Churchill said “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The divide between Democrats and Republicans has never been wider or nastier. While it often seems nothing will ever unite the parties in America, maybe outrage over Russian behavior will.
When did the deep divide begin?
History will likely note, that the deep divide between the parties began in 2006. That was the year the Democrats regained control of both houses of Congress. George Bush was the Republican president.
History indicates that for the country to successfully move forward, the federal government leans to the right for a few years, then leans left for a few years. In the 1950’s Eisenhower leaned right. Then Kennedy/Johnson leaned left. Nixon/Ford leaned right. Then Carter leaned left.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend – Winston Chruchill, WWII
That pattern continued until Reagan/Bush who leaned right, but Clinton did not really lean left. Clinton tried leaning left in his first term by raising taxes and trying to implement national health insurance. Seeing those actions being unpopular, in his second term he started to lean more to the right.
In 1996, during the state of the union speech and prior to the Fall election Clinton declared,
“The era of big government is over.” – William J. Clinton, 1996
In 1997, he reduced the capital gains tax rate, held the line on government spending and had a surplus in the budget. Those are right-leaning actions.
In 2000, Bush leaned right although he practiced what he referred to as “compassionate conservatism.” By 2006, the country essentially had been leaning right for 26 years. That brought on the strong left-leaning position of Obama in 2008.
Today the divide is very deep.
By 2016, Obama had taken the country so far to the left that very liberal positions began to seem mainstream. Some members of the Democratic Party wanted the country to lean even further to the left. The Bernie Sanders’ followers wanted more government control, higher taxes, more spending on social programs, universal single-payer health care, a high minimum wage and free college for all Americans.
Republicans became incensed. They vowed to stop Obama and the Democrats. In 2010, the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives. This stopped most of the far left leaning actions. Obama became so frustrated by his inability to get legislation through Congress, that he ruled by executive order. He even admitted that some actions weren’t legal, but his supporters didn’t mind. His opponents became more resistant.
Then Trump was elected president in 2016 and the GOP held control of both houses of Congress. The Dems vowed to resist, which deepened the divide further.
All of that has led to the toxic, extremely partisan federal government that we have today. That means it is very difficult to pass legislation in a bipartisan manner. President Trump has been able to pass continuing resolutions and a budget by reaching out to both sides.
However, he has angered members of his party as he moves away from the right-leaning position.
But now, the Russians may help to close the divide.
Although the partisan nature of Congress is to blame the other side for Russian interference, both parties recognize the threat. Both parties want a secure election process and both parties want to stop Russian aggression.
Partly because of the Russian threat, Trump was able to get the majority of Dems to vote for his budget which had a huge increase in military spending. The Dems voted in favor because Trump did not eliminate spending for some social programs and he did not cut off federal funds to sanctuary cities.
Trump and the Democrats were worried enough about a Russian threat that the politics of division didn’t seem to matter. Recently Russia is flexing its muscles by firing a ballistic missile. Russia also appears to have poisoned two English citizens. Trump and the rest of the world reacted strongly by expelling a record number of diplomats.
Russian aggression and Russian interference in the election process is a threat to all Americans. Since the Republicans and the Democrats are all Americans, the parties are united in their opposition.
Sometimes it takes an outside threat to bring opposing parties together. While the Russians present a threat to the US, their actions may signal the beginning of the end of the Great American Division.
Lead Image: NBC News report screen shot of Russia - https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/how-does-u-s-decide-which-russians-throw-out-country-n860916