The pundits have a new growth industry: espousing how a sharply divided America could likely spell its decline.
It will only happen if we let it happen, if we believe there is no alternative.
But the facts suggest the challenge of bringing Americans together will be daunting at least and impossible at worst. President-elect Joe Biden received some 79 million votes, the most of any president in history. President Donald Trump received 73.5 million, the second most in American history.
Experts note the loyalty and steadfastness of Trump followers. Protests, demonstrations and remaining lawn signs suggest they are not going anywhere.
A Pew Charitable Trust research on voters shows a growing chasm between Democrats and Republicans on race and religion, two things that can be flashpoints in any democracy. Some 75 percent of those who supported Biden agreed with a statement that it is “a lot more difficult” to be a Black person in America than white. Only 9 percent of Trump voters agreed.
In another stark contrast, the Pew survey showed 82 percent of Biden supporters said the handling of the coronavirus was “very important” to their vote. Only 24 percent of Trump supporters agreed with that statement.
The Pew survey illuminates other stark differences between Trump voters and Biden voters.
And while there is hope that Biden and GOP Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can rely on a decades long friendship to get things done, there’s no sure bet the Trump supporters will follow McConnell in that vein.
In fact, it’s likely the Republican Party will have to wrestle with this dilemma for some time. It will be an unenviable position to work with a president from the opposite party who will no doubt be willing to meet halfway on many things, and a Trump/Republican base that is not interested in compromise.
We believe it will come down to a matter of what was once called the “sensible center” group of voters in hard red states exerting pressure for compromise and getting things done. But these early achievements will have to show clear benefits for both Trump and Biden voters. Some have suggested a large infrastructure spending bill that will create jobs in red and blue states alike. Another stimulus bill could also be helpful.
These kinds of small baby steps cannot be underestimated. The country hasn’t been so divided in recent history, and we deepen those divisions at our peril.