In The New York Times on Sunday, July 4, Alexander Burns writes about the immutability of the current split in the American electorate. No matter what President Biden accomplishes, about 53% of the voters will approve and 47% will not. Despite the awful loss by President Trump in 2020 (by 7 million votes), he still won 25 states. Between that, the deep divide between whites and everyone else being exploited by the GOP, the suppression of voting by Republican state legislatures, and even the financial misdeeds alleged of the Trump Organization, Mr. Trump is still popular and has a strangle hold on the Republican Party. It is frankly amazing.
Despite what Mr. Burns writes, I believe it has as much to do with the relative lack of energy in the Biden White House and the Biden program as much as the retained excitement about Donald Trump. Infrastructure investment is needed, but it is neither sexy nor energizing of the people.
There are still huge gaps in the populace in their belief in the efficacy of the covid vaccine and this has left President Biden a bit short on his goal of getting 70% of Americans at least partially immunized by July 4. Why is this political alignment so intransigent to change?
The American electorate has become very skeptical of politics of any stripe. The Congress is rightly seen as feckless and both the legislative and executive branches keep ceding more and more power to the judiciary branch which was not at all the idea of the Framers. They put the Congress first in the Constitution, not the Supreme Court.
There is an ever-widening gap between the haves and have nots, the educated and the under educated, and the white collar class and the blue collar workers whose very existence is being threatened by automation and the vanishing American manufacturing sector. People are make money moving symbols around not doing things with their hands.
This reality has created a society where a lot of the wealth is concentrated in very few hands and the rest of the people struggle. The pandemic only made this worse. The educated worked from home. Those in the service sector lost their jobs.
Mr. Biden is leading a country in a profound state of disquiet. Buildings are falling down for no reason. History is being argued about. When did America really start? In 1776? Or 1619? Or in Texas in 1836? Were we really founded mostly by slave owners and was the Alamo a scam? If we can’t agree on where we came from, how can we agree on where we are going?
What makes this all worse is the awful leadership of both parties in the Congress. The extreme progressives trying to highjack the Democratic Party by pushing as hard on President Biden as they can simply alienate most of the Republicans (and many centrists) and preclude any chance at bipartisan compromise. The extremes on the right of the GOP deny reality and insist Trump won and that voter fraud is a real problem. It isn’t.
I have no glib answers to how the country can begin to pull together. Clearly, neither does Mr. Biden. Look, we are no worse than Israel which is being run by a coalition of eight parties with a margin of a single seat in the Knesset.
Democracy is being tested everywhere, but if it is being tested in the United States, it rattles all the other democracies of the world.
I suggest both parties begin to search for true charismatic leadership that is under 70 and that represents a clear-eyed vision for tomorrow. The current leadership of both the Democratic and Republican Parties at the executive and congressional levels is inadequate. If we want to move the needle from 53 to 47, we need someone who is capable of exciting 60% to move in one direction. Ronald Reagan did it. LBJ did it once. Since then, we have split almost 50-50 and each 50 is sinking their feet deeper into their partisan cement. It is going to take new leadership to break that cement up and build a new coalition of Americans who can pull in the same direction.