On Nov. 7, after Pennsylvania pushed Joseph R. Biden to a 270 electoral vote, the president-elect stressed in his victory speech that this was now more than ever a time for unity and healing. This same message was repeated throughout inauguration day, as Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on Jan. 20, surrounded by 25,000 National Guard troops and a temporary wall with razor wire adorning the top.
In his speech Biden emphasized that “unity is the path forward” and that “we must meet this moment as the United States of America,” again reiterating the theme of unity.
The question that remains is where were these calls for unity from President Biden, politicians and other public figures the past four years?
There is no question that today’s society is very divided, with politics finding its way to the workplace, social media, the dinner table and seemingly every aspect of life. Politics is damaging friendships, relationships, families and ultimately turning us against one another. We cannot even agree on common issues anymore without digging our heels in and pointing the finger at the other side.
There isn’t one person to blame for this, all sides are responsible, but it seems as though blatant hypocrisy has pushed us to be more divided than ever.
In his 2017 inaugural speech, President Donald J. Trump declared, “We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.” But did this ever come to fruition? The short answer is no.
The past four years have been nothing but each side demonizing each other for their political views; however, the difference lies in how each side reacted, specifically with how Democrats reacted to Republicans.
After living under a Democratic White House with President Obama for eight years, the balance of power shifted back to a Republican president, which was something the political left just could not take, even though Republicans had survived. From the start, on Trump’s inauguration day there were violent protests in Washington, D.C. that brought destruction to the city.
While most demonstrations were peaceful, there did not seem to be any widespread efforts by Democratic lawmakers to disavow and denounce the violence. This is not to say that there is no violence on the other side due to the outcome of democracy, as seen with the violent and deadly unrest that occurred at the Capitol on Jan. 6, as a pro-Trump protesters attacked Capitol police and forced their way into the Capitol building in protest of the certification of President Biden’s victory.
This same sentiment is seen during the instances of rioting and looting amongst the peaceful demonstrations throughout the summer of 2020, in response to the horrible and unjustified killing of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, where a large portion of Democratic lawmakers still neglected to condemn violence and destruction.
Instead, they complained when President Trump sent in federal agents to areas such as Portland, Chicago and Albuquerque to stop the violence, with some even stating that violence from groups like ANTIFA was a myth, as claimed by Representative Jerry Nadler. While some prominent Democrats, like Biden, House Majority Whip James Clyburn and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot did in fact condemn destruction and illegal acts during the riots, separating those from the majority of large and peaceful demonstrations seen across the country, a large majority remained silent. Especially left-leaning media outlets like CNN, which aired the headline “fiery but mostly peaceful protests” during the Kenosha riots, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
These remarks came in stark contrast to their reactions to the pro-Trump riot at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, the day the certification of the electoral votes was supposed to take place. I am not trying to argue against or for the messages promoted and the reasons for the protests, as everyone deserves to have their voices heard, nor am I trying to prove which riot was more justified or more atrocious, as violence and destruction are never justified and a large portion of both protests were peaceful to begin with. Instead, I look to the clear distinctions in reaction to the protests.
I argue that there was a very different tone among Democrats and left-leaning media outlets during the Capitol riot, labeling the rioters as “armed insurrectionists” and not drawing a distinction between the large group of peaceful protesters who did not take part in storming the Capitol and the violent agitators, as they had during the previous riots.
This parallels the same efforts by right-leaning media outlets, like FOX News, who focused more on the violent aspects over the summer than the peaceful portions.
In short, both sides failed to properly distinguish between violent agitators and peaceful protesters, instead lumping them all together into one category. The one distinction is that nearly every lawmaker, Republican or Democrat, including Presidents Trump and Biden condemned the riot at the Capitol; however, during the summer riots it was mainly only Republicans condemning the violent acts, with only a few Democrats as mentioned, even when buildings in Washington, D.C., like historic St. John’s Church were set on fire and vandalized.
If Democrats truly want to unify this country, they need to not only condemn violence and rioting from Republicans but also from their own side.
It is not just the hypocrisy on violence that has divided us. These past four years saw the creation of a toxic culture, where people were shunned for supporting one candidate over the other, and were labeled socialists and communists, or Nazis and white supremacists, all depending on which party they belonged to or who they voted for, without anyone even knowing the individual’s true character. The problem with this new push for unity is that it is disingenuous.
Democrats have lambasted not only the former president and his administration, but his supporters, all Republicans, including those who might have not even voted for him, and especially anyone that wasn’t supporting the Biden-Harris ticket during the 2020 election cycle. Even Representative Maxine Waters urged her supporters to confront Trump officials and tell them that they are not welcome in public places.
Now suddenly, after calling Republicans deplorables and white supremacists for the past four years, and accusing those on the political right of supporting racism and not seeing it as a deciding factor for their vote, Democrats want to “heal” and “unify” together with Republicans, solely because they got their way and their candidates, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, won the election.
If the election went the other way, I seriously question whether these same Democrats would be calling for unity and healing.
The foundation of this “unity” message is already beginning to crack and the division are already driving deeper. Hillary Clinton is still claiming President Trump was an illegitimate president who needs to have his phone records checked to see if he communicated with President Putin the day of the riots, while Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is advocating for a system of keeping records on those who supported Trump to hold them accountable in the future, or essentially state surveillance, which isn’t something anybody on the political right or left wants.
Additionally, “Today” show host Katie Couric has pushed for a system to “deprogram” Trump supporters and Public Broadcasting Service contract attorney, Michael Beller, stated that GOP voters’ kids need to be sent to reeducation camps, even going as for to state that, “even if Biden wins, we go for all the Republican voters, and Homeland Security will take their children away.”
Perhaps most polarizing is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s successful effort to impeach Trump for a second time and force a Senate impeachment trial for a man who is out of office and now a private citizen, when the country needs to move forward for the good of everyone. We should be focusing on battling the COVID-19 pandemic, yet Pelosi and her colleagues still pushed for a second impeachment.
Ultimately, I do think unity is possible, but it’s going to take a lot more than just saying that we need to heal and come together. We need to realize that not everything has to be right and left, and not everything has to be absolute.
We need to start treating our fellow citizens with respect again and stop making everything so political. We are all Americans under one nation. True unity comes when Americans stop trying to grab for power when their party is in office and create a toxic culture and divisive environment when they are not.
If this political climate continues, we will never be unified as a country again. While Biden may not be my “cup of Joe” for a lot of issues, there are still areas where I agree with him in terms of addressing climate concerns and raising taxes on large corporations.
I still hope for his success as Commander in Chief and for the divisions to heal in this wounded nation. Let’s start focusing on what we have in common as Americans, rather than what separates us.
We all want to live healthy and prosperous lives, achieve our dreams and leave the country a better place for future generations, so why not start talking to one another again and engaging in dialogue, rather than just judging individuals off of their political ideologies and shutting them out of our lives?
Unity is definitely achievable, but it’s going to take a collective effort from everyone in the nation to change their ways and start respecting one another again.
As President Bill Clinton once said, “We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more.”
Hopefully we can all start living up to this message.