Many predicted the end of any hope for the survival of bipartisanship after the death of Senator John McCain. McCain believed in working across the aisle because he believed it led to better policymaking. He also saw Democrats as people he actually liked, respected, and trusted despite disagreements on ideology. Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan sought the support of their opponents to create policies that would address the needs of diverse members of both parties. Politicians have become more committed to holding onto power rather than enacting constructive, fair lawmaking.
An article in the Washington Post in January 2020 described a 1990’s movement towards tribalism, and the birth of an opposition party approach to governing was instigated by the Speaker of the House Republican Newt Gingrich. Historically, there have always been conflicts between the parties on policies. However, Gingrich’s ideology incorporated a demonization of Democrats that has morphed into the poisonous movement in current politics called Trumpism. An authentic belief in policy and moral standards has been replaced with a carnal pursuit of power.
Republicans align themselves with Trump’s conspiracy theory that the Democrat’s only agenda has been to delegitimize him and his presidency. It is true, Democrats were not only disappointed Trump won the election, but they were also disturbed by it. However, they hoped he would realize that as President, he was now responsible for the needs and safety of all Americans, not just his base. When that pivot did not happen, and he immediately enacted a race-based ban and spouted racist rhetoric, Democrats went into full opposition mode. Throughout his presidency, Trump has made no attempt to unite the country or to unite the parties to better the lives of the lower class, the middle-class immigrants, and American minorities.
The Post article also described a Republican-led process that bases it’s the identity on staunch, full party opposition to the opposing party. This approach to party identity leaves no room for negotiation and compromise on policymaking between opposing ideologies. The specifics on policy and the betterment of the country are no longer as important as the goal of staying in office.
When Barack Obama was elected, the Republicans led by the toxic hypocrite Mitch McConnell, declared in public he would do everything he could to make Obama a one-term president. He also forced his majority members to oppose all of Obama’s initiatives. The Tea Party has turned today’s Republicans into an extreme radical party who doesn’t believe in bipartisanship but also will no longer engage in it. Additionally, the Fox news culture spreads the demonized opposition party concept and incites millions of Americans to believe hating your opponent is loyal to your party affiliation.
Instead of respectful disagreement, Trump has trained his loyalists to imply all Democrats are bad people who back policies that are anti-American. Unfortunately, this narrative has resulted in the Democrats talking in broad, negative terms about all conservatives. Not to sound childish, but Trump and the subservient Republicans lowered the bar first and this disrespectful style of engagement between the parties has become normalized. America has become weakened because it is divided.
It appears likely the 2020 election brings hope for the rebirth of bipartisanship if former Vice President Joe Biden is elected. Biden has a long history of believing that America benefits when both parties come together to negotiate and compromise on their ideologies. Biden has been quoted as saying, ” no one party should have too much power.” In comparison to Trump, a president who is self-serving and sows divisiveness, Biden promises hope for a truly re-united, moral America.