How Will America Handle Reconciliation?
Has Trump divided America? Or was the election of Donald Trump the result of an already existing divide? Or was it a combination of the two? No matter what the answer is, it is clear we are seeing a cultural shift towards division and vitriol that we have rarely seen as a nation. Accusations come from both sides, and even the very basis of truth cannot be agreed upon, leaving us in nation-wide existential arguments about matters such as race, income inequality and the interpretation of the Constitution.
These are tumultuous times, and we cannot be entirely certain how this presidency and congressional session will end. It remains to be seen whether Trump is impeached, rendered unfit for office because of investigations or left untouched. What we can be certain of, however, is that even after Trump leaves office, there are scars across the country that will need to be addressed.
In the eventual process of reconciliation, we must consider the following:
What Are the Facts?
America cannot agree on what science is telling us and what has happened in our country in the past. We cannot agree on even what the Civil War was fought over, in some instances. “Fake news” is an accusation thrown around so often that its meaning has become worthless for both sides, at times leading journalists to need to investigate and restate the obvious.
How will we reconcile the facts? Rational argument doesn’t seem to be working, as some people will cling to their ideas with near-religious fervor (in some cases because their scientific views are informed by their religious views). While we persisted before with some of these divides, such things can no longer easily persist beneath the surface. Cards are on the table in most relationships, and for America to grow, there must be a consensus on at least most issues. Capitulation might be necessary in the near future, or else the next several decades might not prove better than the last few years.
Can We Forgive Hatred and Bigotry?
A year ago, one would hardly expect to see such a prevalence of Nazis and white nationalist groups in American politics, but here we are. Trump refuses to truly condemn one of his major bases of support, leaving the rest of the nation stunned and outraged.
Yet there is a problem with the moral high ground in this regard: one cannot simply ignore tens of millions of people who are either tolerant of or sympathetic to the intolerant causes that make up a great deal of American politics, especially when many are concentrated in certain regions of the country. This is not something that can be removed. Punishing that many people, explicitly or implicitly, will only lead to disaster and further rebellion down the line. Additionally, with minorities set to make up a majority in the near-future, a political paradigm shift is going to occur.
So the question remains: How does America reconcile its racial differences when some groups are literally seen as existential threats to others? Is it possible to truly forgive on a societal level the type of bigotry we have seen in places such as Charlottesville? On some level, it will be necessary for the survival of the nation to determine what happened and to work above America’s racist past.
The Role of the Media
There is no questioning that an inflammatory media infrastructure has been contributing to the growing divisions and tensions within the country. The 24-hour news cycle is subservient to both the demands of sensationalism (to attract viewers, spreading unnecessary panic in the process) and of sponsors and owners who might have a political agenda of their own.
It will eventually be the responsibility of the media to tone down and restore higher standards of journalistic integrity and to avoid the temptations of inflammatory rhetoric. Yet it will be up to people to enforce those ideas, with both their viewership and their voices. If the same capitalistic forces that unintentionally encourage bias and poor journalism are no longer popular or profitable as a concept, those practices will cease. Once certain organizations on both sides stop beating the war drums under the guise of reporting, the country will come closer to reconciliation with itself.
What Can We Expect from Major Political Parties?
This is the most difficult question to answer. A lot of it will depend on if the Trump administration is functional come the 2018 midterm election (one could certainly argue it already isn’t, given the number of resignations in the executive branch we’ve seen). Precedent dictates this will go in favor of the Democrats, even without considering the disastrous efforts of the Trump administration.
However, the next election will very much be a turning point for both parties. Will the Republican Party endorse Trump in his bid for reelection, or will it break with historical precedent and open the nomination up to newcomers? One would like to think that in 2020, as an effort to reject many of the recent racially-charged views and comments coming from President Trump, we might see a different nominee as an effort to reign in extremist elements of the party.
The idea of a “safe” candidate should seem attractive to the GOP, but how they deal with their alt-right base that helped propel Trump to victory will be a major factor in how America reconciles its differences. If Republicans continue to pander to it, things could get dicey, but rejecting it could mean huge election losses. In many ways, the next election will help show to the country and the world where the GOP’s real allegiances are. Are they more concerned with the well-being of the country or winning elections? Only time will tell.
Democrats, on the other hand, will likely go on the offensive for a time, perhaps choosing a candidate such as Bernie Sanders in 2020. But in learning the lessons of last time, they will likely focus more on working class white voters and not dismiss them as before. They might see a coalition of this group and their traditional base as a way to gain more power. But it will certainly be interesting to see how people react to this. Will the Democratic party shift to the left, or will candidates like Sanders shift to the center, appealing to the more extreme left in name only? One could ask the same question of the Democrats: what’s more important, winning or the country? People are angry, so for both parties, perhaps feeding into extremism might be the ticket to success, but it is hardly what America needs right now. For reconciliation to happen, voters need to reign in their passion, and party leaders need to show some true leadership.
Additionally, people expect action from Congress, and that will require bipartisan support. Most are already growing tired, and soon it will be more politically expedient for many representatives to work together as opposed to the obstructionism seen in recent years. The public might not necessarily want a rational approach, but individual representatives will often take the path of least political resistance. Again, only time will tell.
There will be a long road ahead of us. Remarks and actions taken cannot be taken back in the minds of many, and perhaps rightly so. Nonetheless, the nation will eventually need to heal for it to survive, and leadership will be needed in this regard.
When the current crisis passes, what do you see happening? How will the current state of America shape future events? Please let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
About the Author: Carla is a writer and blogger who studies technology, the media and its effects on American politics and society. She currently writes for The Right Side of Truth, among other websites. She’s been reviewing the political divide in America for years now and hopes that this perspective will be helpful to readers.
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