Right now, Democrats are very big on preaching “unity” in politics. After the very tense Trump Era, they want everyone to come together as one and fix things.
It sounds great in theory, except that historically, “unity” is something that is very rare in politics. The last time we were truly “united” was after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. At that point, we were united against a common enemy. There was an outside force that Americans of all ideologies and creed needed to come together to face.
But, that was over 19 years ago and under much less politically hostile times.
What’s more, “unity” as it’s been defined by the left is little more than “compliance,” and that is no way for a government to operate. The compliance the left is calling for is both a misreading of the so-called “mandate” they’ve been given and an authoritarian take on how government should work.
Politics in America isn’t built for “unity” at all. Rather, it is built to operate in just two speeds: Stalemate and compromise.
A political stalemate is a feature of the system, not a bug, and it is meant to keep one political force from wielding too much power in heavy-handed ways. By creating a system that allows for mixed control of the federal government, you create a system that allows voters to be truly represented. Don’t like what the people in power are doing? You don’t have to replace the whole thing. You just have to replace enough of them that you can create a stalemate.
The cynic in me prefers a government doing as little as possible because the government is run by people, and people are just awful creatures.
Now, when it’s not operating at a stalemate, government operates at its best when it’s built on compromise. The best victories under Reagan, for example, were gained through compromise between Democrats and Republicans. If both sides start at their own respective ends and worked toward the middle, there would be something each side can take away, and ultimately good things can happen even with a divided government.
But, what can’t happen is what we saw a lot of during the Obama years: Republican Congressional leaders starting not on the right but in the middle and working their way left. In that scenario, conservatives get very little of what they want and progressives get virtually everything they want. And do you know what happened because of those negotiating tactics?
Donald Trump. Donald Trump is what happened.
Feeling ignored and left out, conservatives turned to an outside force to make changes, and that led to the rise of Trump in 2016. He gave a voice to those who felt voiceless, and it deeply destabilized Washington D.C. in the process. If Republicans are so dead set on that not happening again (and if you pay attention to the whispers around Washington D.C. long enough, you know the people in power don’t want it to happen again), then all they have to do is negotiate better.
The American political landscape has definitely changed over the last four years, and it’s apparent that the change isn’t over. There is a lot of work to be done on both sides, but more importantly, a lot of work to be done in the country. Either Congress can get locked in a stalemate (prevent either side from committing bad and stupid acts upon the American people) or they can compromise and make things better not just for their own bases, but for all Americans. Unity isn’t an option, but compromise definitely should be.
Probably shouldn’t be that hard of a choice, but Congress seems to be filled with slow learners.