Chicago Tribune: Is there a fix for our national divisions?


By: Bob Schneider

In this ocean of hate on social media, I also see a way out of our national angst. It is a palpable fix, and political parties ignore it.

That is because parties in today’s America gain their power from the division. Divide and conquer is as old as the idea of a Republic as a form of government. That is pretty old. Unity is not in a political party’s interests.


When I read the words on social media, it would be easy to feel a twinge of despair at the division in the country. We have communities divided over politics and ideology. We have members of families who do not speak to one another because of their political beliefs.

We fight about everything. If one side says black, the other side says white. There are no standard areas where we seek agreement. It appears we look for areas of disagreement and jump on them.

What is the result of this division? Look at our looming deficit for one outcome. Nobody is addressing that monster. Look at our trade war with China. It has gone from a trade disagreement to a full-fledged trade war. That is not in our country’s best interests.

Partisans on my side of the aisle rightfully blame Donald Trump for starting the trade war. Is it solely his fault? Yes, and no.

The blame has to lay at the doorstep of Americans and not just Trump. Why at the door of Americans? Because the two major parties, the Republicans, and the Democrats, seek doctrinaire candidates to run for office who do not believe in negotiation and compromise.

If we had real negotiators in office, there would be no trade war. Trade wars are a failure of governing, just as wars are a failure of diplomacy.

During my Passover break, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that cites how Democrats are uniting behind a liberal agenda unlike they had since before the centrist Bill Clinton era.

Is that in our nation’s best interest, to elect stiff-necked ideologues who are as uncompromising as Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell? History would say no. That kind of unification behind an extremist ideology is why Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan. The egregious error of being ardent and uncompromising leftists is a significant reason George H.W. Bush won in 1988. History is that sitting Vice Presidents rarely win the Presidency.

It was not until centrist Bill Clinton won the nomination in 1992 that the party fortunes changed. Bill Clinton moved the party to the middle and voters responded. Despite Barack Obama’s rhetoric, he pretty much did the same thing.

In 2016 the never-has-been-a-Democrat-and-never-will-be-one Bernie Sanders pulled the party left. That pull significantly contributed to Hillary Clinton losing the election.

We like to rationalize, “Oh, it was the Russians.” That is us as a party with our heads stuck in the sand. We lost that election.

Russia did help Donald Trump, but the Bernie supporters staying home on election day, or voting for Trump or Jill Stein, are as guilty as Putin for the loss.

Amid all this division, we see even more division within the parties. The GOP is as big of a mess as the Democrats are at the moment. Civil war rages in both major parties.

What will change things? If we have shared dreams, we can unite our nation. That is the fix, and it is a simple solution. It is simple to write, it is simple to imagine, and it is not so simple to implement.

It is not simple to implement because it takes leadership. That is something missing in America today. I am hard pressed to find a visionary leader in either party.

Loud-mouthed, doctrinaire ideologues are not leaders. They seek to impose a narrow minority view on the majority. Men like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are not visionary leaders. They are just punks.

John Kennedy was a leader. He articulated a vision for our nation. His brother Bobby was a leader, too. As much as people despise Richard Nixon because of his dishonesty, he was a leader as well. So was the great communicator, Ronald Reagan, and of course, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

The men I named above had a vision, and put their ideas into words that inspired us. Their campaign slogans were not merely catchy phrases. Behind their words were blueprints for creating a direction for our nation.

Make America Great Again was Ronald Reagan’s campaign slogan. Trump hijacked it. He took it because he is incapable of creating a vision. There was a plan behind Reagan’s slogan. In Trumpland, there are just schemes to protect the upper one percent of society.

We need to put division aside. We need to jettison the doctrinaire. We need to make those who are unwilling to compromise for the good of the whole political jetsam. Toss them overboard. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

I am starting to see that very process unfold in the parties. Conor Lamb, the young veteran who won in Pennsylvania’s special election is a new type of candidate for the Democratic Party. (Website)

Mindi Messmer running for Congress in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District puts being an American ahead of being a Democrat. (Website)  She reaches out to those who have good ideas and seek to do the right thing regardless of their party affiliation.

The same is true of Gina Collias, running as a Republican in North Carolina. Ms. Collias wants to serve constituents and not serve the party. (Website)

We need to get our vision back. This new group running gives me hope. We The People can help the process along by rejecting extremism. We hold all the power. We need to start using it instead of surrendering it to parties, and ideologies.

Gina Collias