In recent weeks, a lot of surrogates for the Donald Trump campaign have been making arguments in his favor that effectively say that he is the only candidate who can unify the country.
This is kind of statement is, to use a phrase steeped in a long history of political science, complete and total bullshit. (Although, in Trump’s case, he has unified a fairly large percentage of the country against him…)
That’s not to say that Hillary Clinton will unify the country either. But she’s not talking about it. She has probably learned something from watching both her husband and Barack Obama get stymied by the Republican Party on just about every major initiative they proposed. In both 1992 and 2008 the republican leadership in congress stated that they had a single goal: to make the democratic president a one-term president.
While they failed in that goal, they did a great job of sowing disunity despite the more than conciliatory tones of the presidents themselves. (Indeed, President Obama can be criticized for his somewhat idealistic attempts to appeal to and appease the opposition more than his supporters.)
In a true democracy, unity among the electorate on just about any topic, is an impossible goal. It’s why 55% of the vote for a given candidate is considered a landslide. To put that in perspective, in American football, a team that wins 55% of its games (in a 16 game season, winning 9 games is 56%) will probably end up watching the playoffs from their living room. Hockey and baseball teams with a 55% winning percentage have a slightly better shot at being in the playoffs. Basketball teams with that winning percentage might make the playoffs but will certainly go down in flames early on.
Disunity is a natural consequence of having different priorities. Donald Trump’s message does not resonate with me at all. This is at least partially because I don’t see immigration — legal or otherwise — as a pressing concern to our country. I happen to work with a large number of non-US citizens (both immigrants and people living in other countries) and they contribute quite a bit to a healthy and vibrant workplace.
I’m much more concerned about the environment, women’s rights, and healthcare. With regard to one sub-point within this list (and it overlaps all three items here), I am decidedly pro-choice on abortion. Other than drawing a line in the human gestational period after which the procedure shouldn’t be performed unless there were a danger to the mother’s life (and I’m certainly open to discussion of where that line ought to be; I should presume it might be around about a point where the fetus is viable on its own outside of the womb) I see no reason for any restrictions on the procedure. I might even come close to arguing that we need to perform more abortions every year.
That last part might come a bit too close to eugenics for my own comfort so I’m not quite going to make that kind of an argument, but overpopulation is a serious problem. So let’s just ask the question of how many more abortions would be performed every year if we were to lift all unnecessary restrictions.
The very fact that I take this position means that, if I were to seek elective office, there would be no shortage of people who wouldn’t vote for me. Depending upon the overall political leanings of the region I would represent, it might even doom my candidacy. (As might my atheism but that’s the stuff of another blog entry…)
One of my oldest blog entries on this site was about how the phrase “under god” in the pledge of allegiance undermines the word that immediately follows it: indivisible. Indeed, the very mention of a deity sows a great deal of disunity.
A shrewd political candidate should not be seeking unity. He or she should seek tolerance and respect, even for positions with which they disagree.
And we can start by having two functional political parties in this country. Right now there’s one functioning party and one that is constantly doing nothing other than wasting time investigating minor missteps by people in the other party.