Dividing America

It has become a common thought. Nothing can get done in America because the country is so divided politically. President Obama has pointed to the Tea Party and said their lack of compromise is the reason. He has often implied the Tea Party is holding the rest of the Republican Party hostage.

This idea might not be original to Obama though. Books have been written on the subject such as Our Divided Political Heart. And commentators have also elaborated on our political division today being unique such as Michael Barone.

Obama references this as the reason he must go around congress instead of allowing them to do their job normally. The implication is because of the presence of a few extremists he is forced to go to extreme measures to get anything done.

In other words, anyone who does not agree with his actions must be an extremist. But he presents himself as not an extremist, but as a man forced to go to extremes in order to enact sane policies.

The problem with this is there are millions of Americans, including me, who do not agree the policies of the president are sane, obvious or appropriate for this country. The majority of us are are not members of the tea party, even if our political leanings would be closer to them than to the president.

The rhetoric about a divided America, from the press and from the president, has been an excuse for holding an uncompromising position. It has been utilized to marginalize opponents. It has been the justification for doing an end run around the normal checks and balances of the United States Constitution.

To hear all this noise you would almost think political division in this country is a new development. It isn’t.  The two party system has been around a long time.

Why don’t we remember that past administrations had to deal with opposition rather than demonizing it? Many reasons, but a major one is we no longer have a neutral press which holds both sides accountable.