On the Great Divide:
The Fissure in American Political Society
By. Raimondo Graziano
~ Written after the 2016 Presidential Election
If there is one certainty to be gleamed from the outcome of the recent presidential election, it is that the country is starkly divided. This division has permeated through the streets, dining rooms, buses, campuses and parks across the nation sparking debates both cordial, teetering on violence, and in some cases, outright rioting. In New York City the day after the election, I had the opportunity to stand in the middle of a crowd, no, a full-fledged mob of thousands of disgruntled, disillusioned peoples protesting the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency. The anger – deep, vitriolic anger – was palpable. Mourn, Organize, Resist, flashed across the facades lining down fifth avenue leading towards Trump Tower. Thousands of people, each with different signs in hands calling attention to the many issues which they believed the incoming President would not address, rollback or push against. This was not an isolated event of course, these sorts of demonstrations occurred across the country, and continue to do so. However, voices on both the political left and right called for unity and peace. They were, as they are most times, out of touch with the reality on the ground.
The window to bridge the divide is closing, and I predict that the supposed mending and coming together that both sides preach so well will be pursued to no real avail. In the case of Donald J. Trump, the divisions the man has singlehandedly sown over the last year through his campaign trail remarks, revelations about his personal life, and the intertwining and weaving nature of his vast global real estate empire have made the case against him seem clear. However, the very nature of his looming presidency breeds chaos, uncertainty and worry. Are the American people expected to believe that when he sits in that chair, and the full weight of governing is rested on his shoulders, he will ‘pivot’ to govern or will be ‘humbled’ by the weight of the office? The Trump we see; the boasting, boisterous, bellicose, off-the-cuff maverick, is what we will assuredly get come the inauguration, and the days that follow and the long years ahead. And the man’s ascent to the highest public office in this country began eight years ago, when a young and hopeful Senator from Illinois became the 44th President of the United States. The moment that was seized upon by the Republican party was the most opportune given their circumstances, and their strategy of using obstructionism as a political tool won out.
In eight years, the inaction and ineptitude of congress on a range of issues has sowed deep dissatisfaction amongst the American voters, and the hatred and pushback against the first African American president was fierce exacerbating racial tensions, and fueling an increasingly partisan political climate whose scapegoat for economic hardship has become minorities, foreigners, and refugees. The end of compromise and statesmanship started with the election of Senator Barack Obama and the congress he soon inherited, aided by racist elements who found a home within the Republican party, growing nationalistic views and anti-globalist sentiments, the party underwent sweeping changes as the Tea Party movement wrested control of the Republican Party from its elites, the slow degradation of our democracy began. Stonewalling policy initiatives, judge appointments, and continually circumventing the President in numerous affairs, most notably the defection of Senators who penned an open letter to the President and Ayatollah of Iran, stating that the incoming President needn’t abide by its parameters, this move perhaps the most provocative of them all, was tantamount to high-treason.
The issue with the current president lies in the climate of political correctness that has been created, and the president’s own inaction to address some of the divisions felt. In many ways, Obama’s presidency cannot be deemed to be at fault or detrimental to the American people, or American leadership in the world, because he is our first African American president, and due to the deep-seated racism that is prevalent in this country it would be detrimental to the advancement of African Americans across the country to paint the first African American president as a failed one. The immense responsibility placed on the sitting President’s shoulders – to represent all African Americans – was unjustified, never before in American politics has one man had to atone for the entirety of a people; the President is qualified, and the President is a dignified man, yet, he is just as polarizing as Donald J. Trump. Though in reality it may not matter if he is black or white, the institutionalized and internalized racism that does exist in this country sways opinion on a grand scale. Therefore, those that have a say in media and vested interests in emergent markets, that are contingent on the President’s agenda would not profit if some of the hard truths of Obama’s presidency were told. While the cause of globalism is noble, to deny the truths and adverse effects of a rapidly changing world is a deeply damaging flaw that seems poised to disrupt the global order and topple the west. It is the arrogance of Washington, and the transformation of politics from a public service to a business, that threatens the liberal-democratic world order. In pursuit of legacy and history, we neglect the now and circumstances of such.
With incoming President-Elect Trump, the narrative comes full circle, the reshaping of the Republican party into a fringe, reactionary, militaristic, and anti-worker party was complete. Statesmanship and compromise? Those very same things will be left for the dogs and the idealists for at least a generation. The President-Elect’s character is his Achilles heel, his own downfall will be brought about not by others, but by his own egotism, vanity and lust for power which will overshadow any policy success he may achieve, and justly so his failures will be amplified and used against him ferociously, unlike anything we’ve seen, perhaps most comparable to the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.
In politics, there are divisive figures, and they have come and gone in the past, however it must be noted that there is almost no reconciliation between opposing political factions and the ideas they hold as core for their platforms, likewise never is their reconciliation between those who supported one candidate and those who supported another. Opinions on policy can shift with compromise between reasonable adults, but when the choice is between two of the most divisive candidates in history, the room for compromise is negligible. So, the reoccurring narrative that now the country will ‘heal’ and ‘unify’ is hollow at most and wildly optimistic at the least. I believe regardless of any possible Trump failures and successes, the man himself will be contested amongst the American populace, and regardless of any merits his presidency may bring, in our hyper-partisan world, he will be wrong in the eyes of his detractors, and lauded by his supporters. What is certain now is that the world that Donald J. Trump leaves behind will be starkly different than the one he is inheriting, regardless of the policies and events that will transpire over the next four to eight years, American society as we know it has changed. Whether we are experiencing the growing pangs of something great, or the fall of a nation, is yet to be seen.