What we are facing, my fellow Americans, is not simply a difference of opinion. You all know what a difference of opinion looks and sounds like. What we are facing is not mere disagreement about how much the nation should spend on defense or whether undocumented immigrants should be given a path to citizenship.
What we are facing at the political divide is much bigger than any single difference between liberals and conservatives. The challenge presented by the Republican Party and its supporting cast in right-wing media is existential to democracy and the quality of American life. Susan Glasser, in the New Yorker, wrote: “The GOP’s desire to see Biden fail has become a willingness to let the country fail.”
Glasser made that point in the context of the response to the pandemic, and the record supports her dark claim:
According to seven-day averages, as of Sunday, the five states with the highest per capita covid death rates are all governed by Republicans, as are 12 of the top 13.
Alabama had more people die last year during the onset of the pandemic than births.
The US continues to grapple with rising coronavirus cases and deaths, mostly in states of the old Confederacy that have been red for decades. This lingering problem continues to hinder full economic recovery.
Glasser: “Nine months into Joe Biden’s Presidency, the bottom line is that the Republican war on Biden’s legitimacy and the war on Biden’s covid policies are now inextricably linked. The consequences of this are so hard to contemplate that we often do not do so: a politics so broken that it is now killing Americans on an industrial scale.”
Republicans in Congress for years denied the problem of human-caused climate change, then stood by when Trump walked away from the Paris agreement. Climate change poses an absolute existential threat to life on the planet, and some scientists believe it’s already too late to reverse the scorching temperatures, droughts and other extreme climate disasters we’ve seen at increasing rates.
The nation needs some sort of new deal to lessen the impact of climate change, and yet Republicans (joined in the Senate by a couple of stubborn Democrats) continue to complain about the cost of the transformative actions that are necessary. The wealthiest Americans, who have enjoyed four decades of breathtaking prosperity, need to fund a massive investment in renewable energy and infrastructure that makes possible the economy from which they have richly profited. It’s Republicans who fight all attempts to end our dependence on fossil fuels and to fund a new deal essential to limiting the damage caused by climate change.
Republicans, fearing the changing face of the American electorate, are leading efforts to make it tougher for Americans to vote, and it’s hard to imagine a more sinister sabotage of the democracy that conservatives claim to love.
Republicans opposed inquiry into the Jan. 6 insurrection and the attack on the Capitol and refused to find Trump complicit in it — against clear evidence that he incited the mob.
Republicans perpetuate the Big Lie that Trump won re-election.
What’s going on here is not just a difference of opinion. (It goes far beyond whether ID cards should be required to vote.) This is a whole political party, tied to Trump, with such an aggressive wish to maintain power that it will sacrifice American lives and the country’s future.
I firmly believe that Republican leaders (think Mitch McConnell) take a dark, dystopian view they don’t openly share with their constituents — that, in order to preserve power and prosperity for the GOP’s wealthiest supporters, the party needs to follow a fully obstructionist path away from federal spending for the greater good, away from fighting a dubious and costly battle against climate change, and away from further empowering people of color to vote and gain power.
Republicans know they must continue to play to white fears about immigrants, about “socialism,” about cultural changes. They must continue to present government as a problem, not a solution, and, right along those lines, they and the right-wing media continue to question science, expertise, even common sense. Thus, the lingering pandemic — one in 500 Americans dead — and the absurd resistance to masks and vaccination.
I don’t know the answer to this besides a massive voter education effort to change minds. Otherwise, I don’t see how the nation comes together for its own good — not while so many Americans support Trumpism and the GOP’s cynical path to power for its own sake.
As a friend of mine wrote on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks: “All day I’ve been hearing or reading how Americans should come together again like we did after 9/11. If a pandemic that has killed more than 660,000 Americans and is killing about 3,000 every two days for the last month doesn’t bring Americans together, what will? I think the answer is nothing.”