Our country has been polarized in the past……..Slave States vs. Free States; the Union vs the Confederacy (1861-65); Franklin Roosevelt was loved and he was hated as president (1932-1945). Mexico went through it during the Mexican Cristero War (1926-29) and Spain went through a bitter Civil War (1936-39).
Today and ever since the 1960s America has been polarized…….Liberals vs. Conservatives, the Left vs. the Right, us vs. them and it’s getting worse. We tend to assume that anyone who disagrees with our thinking or opposes us is evil. A censure vote isn’t good enough even though that measure is more likely to be bipartisan; the Democratic controlled House of Representatives is out for blood……destroy the President and overthrow him by impeachment. They can’t wait 11 months for the people to decide next November, fearing that they might lose the election. History shows that throughout the world, severe polarization can lead to revolution, coups, civil war, military suppression, etc. To everyone’s credit the process has been more or less orderly so far with no violence while there is some semblance of following the Constitution although there are big differences in its interpretation.
A pensive President Bill Clinton at the White House in 1998 during his impeachment ordeal.
Terrible Precedents. The Republican controlled House impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998, charging inappropriate sexual behavior with a White House, intern, Monica Lewinsky, perjury, and obstruction of justice. In the Senate trial, Clinton was acquitted (see https://www.npr.org/2019/12/06/784721754/president-clinton-was-impeached-21-years-ago-some-parallels-run-deep). It is almost certain that the same result will occur again as history repeats itself since the Republican Party has a majority in the Senate……..all that time wasted while neglecting the country’s many problems. The Republicans set a precedent in 1998. “What comes around goes around”.
Now the danger is another bitter precedent for the future. The next time the Republicans control the House and they can’t get along with a Democratic president, they will also resort to the political death penalty to overthrow a duly elected president…….impeachment, which should be only an extreme measure for crimes and treason to peacefully stop a tyrannical and corrupt president. In 1973 President Nixon resigned before being impeached because the movement was to a large extent bipartisan.
Today it’s strictly along party lines with no dissenter on either side, all of which indicates that the whole thing is political. Regardless of the result of the impeachment proceedings, bipartisanship and cooperation will be very difficult in the future. Hopefully, at least the friendly but very competitive annual congressional baseball game between the opposite sides of the aisle will survive (see https://wtop.com/sports/2018/06/bayou-brothers-scalise-richmond-bridge-opposite-ends-of-congressional-baseball-game-spectrum/slide/1/). Its objective is to help the congressmen to better know each other as human beings.
Even the Catholic Church and Christianity in general is polarized…….Conservatives and Liberals……those who are faithful to Church teachings and the Cafeteria Catholics who pick and choose what they want to believe. Among them are Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Dianne Feinstein, etc…….. “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but I cannot impose my views on others”……a grand cop out and really capitulation.
Historically, the Pope was the arbiter and had the final word on doctrine and its Biblical interpretation. Today the Papacy Church teaching is often ignored by the Left. The Liberals see nothing wrong with contraception, pre-marital sex, abortion, same sex marriage, gender change, etc. Some conservatives, on the other hand, only give lip service to Church teaching on social justice, a living wage, and equal opportunity for all; some are so anti-union that they do not understand the need for labor-management cooperation.
President Donald Trump at one of his political rallies.
True, President Trump is a polarizing figure who is either loved or hated. His constant tweets……calling unfavorable articles or editorials fake news; saying that the impeachment inquiry is a witch hunt and a hoax, etc.; ridiculing and attacking the character of the political opponent, writer or commentator who criticizes him……..certainly are not conducive to harmony, bipartisanship, cooperation, compromise, and finding common ground on which start amicable negotiation.
It is customary for presidents and congressmen to put their assets and businesses into a trust to minimize any appearance of using his political power to favor his businesses. That and making public his tax returns would be a big help. There must be some transparency in the administration to build up a certain trust with the people unless national security is at stake.
The President should be an example of integrity and foster an atmosphere of ethical operations even if not covered by a law. He should insist that every official in his administration avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Asking the president of a foreign country to participate as a favor in the investigation of Joe Biden, a political opponent, and his son in the Ukraine largest gas company is not appropriate. Sooner or later it would come out and Donald Trump paid dearly for taking that foolish risk.
Civility. Let’s begin with the premise that anyone who disagrees with our point of view or opposes us is not evil, but sincere, even if sincerely wrong and should be treated with courtesy, respect, and kindness. Let’s put our Christianity into practice…….old fashioned Christian love in the sense that we do care about the good of everyone. Ethical competition in business is good for society since the profit motive is a great incentive for innovation, new products, greater quality at a lower price, but it doesn’t have to be dog eat dog.
Ethical competition in political elections is democracy at its best…….promoting new ideas and healthy debate for the common good. But it doesn’t have to be a quest for power, ego, and personal gain. A politician worth his salt must have a sincere desire to serve. It doesn’t matter who wins political points and receives the credit as long as the American people benefit…….the common good. That’s what it’s all about.
It is essential for our system of checks and balances to work. That can only happen if each branch of government cooperates with each other. Even if the impeachment process today is a hoax, the Trump Administration should cooperate with the subpoenas that the congressional committees demand. They are part of the system of checks and balances and must be preserved. That gives transparency and breeds cooperation. If an administration refuses to cooperate with a subpoena, then the Supreme Court should be the final arbiter. Another bad precedent has been set for future administrations to stonewall and congressional subpoena.
The Press and the Media. Let’s assume that a journalist does not consciously write fake news. True, his bias creeps in. Let’s get back to Journalism 101. Every journalist must aspire to be objective as humanly possible. News is independent of the reporter’s opinion…….just the facts, quoting observers on the scene, and including opposing points of view. The author of investigative reporting must be predisposed to change his opinion or point of view if the facts and the events warrant it. Opinion belongs on the editorial page.
Idealistic? There was a time when senators would address each other with respect, such as “the distinguished senator from Ohio”. Liberals and Conservatives, Republicans and Democrats had heated debates between opposing points of view, but in the end they could be friends………like sportsmanship.
Conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan conferring with the liberal Democrat Speaker of the House,Tip O'Neill in 1982.
After his election in 1980, the conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan pursued his agenda of tax cuts, a military buildup, and deregulation, all of which the liberal Democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill had done everything he could to resist as a bitter political enemy of the President. With the budget deficit rising and the markets getting concerned about Washington’s solvency, the Republican and the Democrat needed each other’s help. The White House wanted to cut domestic spending, including Social Security. O’Neill wanted to safeguard entitlement programs and reverse some of Reagan’s tax cuts for the rich. The two sides kept at it for four months. They announced an agreement that formed the basis of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, which increased tax revenues by about one per cent of G.D.P. Reagan and O’Neill also set up a bipartisan commission on Social Security, and the following year they both endorsed a set of reforms that put the finances of the public retirement system on a firmer footing. However, the agreement delayed a cost-of-living adjustment and raised the retirement age. It also increased contributions and cut benefits for future retirees. See https://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/can-donald-trump-learn-from-ronald-reagan-and-tip-oneill. Yes it is possible for enemies to work together when the common good demands it.
In my own personal life I have two dear friends, Fred and Kay Turk. We worked together in Peru as lay missionaries. We all aspired to serve others. In my opinion they’re wild eyed liberals. We are on opposite poles in politics as well as on Church renewal. We would debate into the wee hours; yet remained friends. They even made me the godfather of Dan, their first born son, whom I visit every year when in Washington for the March For Life.
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House in 2019-20.
Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House and leader of the impeachment movement against President Trump, said to a reporter accusing her of hating President Trump: “I pray for the President every day”. That’s a great start……..opposing forces praying for each other. That would give great hope. Let’s pray for our Country and for each other. After all, for God, anything is possible.