The political divide in this country grows ever more menacing, even as the crises facing us — exemplified by the fires raging in the West and the resurgence of the COVID variant across the country — grow more destructive.
With the Congress and the voters divided, the mainstream media keeps urging bipartisan cooperation to move forward. But that assumes that both parties have a good faith stake in making progress. The plain reality is that Donald Trump and his Republican followers are stoking rebellion, not cooperation.
Trump continues to deny that he lost the 2020 election. Across the country, Republicans are reinforcing his big lie with utterly brazen efforts to spread rumors about fraud, even though Republican state election officials, Republican judges, Trump’s own attorney general have all exposed the claims of fraud as bogus.
Now, in states with Republican legislatures, Trump partisans are passing bills to strip the election officials of their authority, and to sponsor partisan “audits” of votes — but, as in Texas, only in counties that Trump lost, arguing there is no need to look at counties that he won. They are pushing a package of restrictive voting laws designed to make it harder to vote — and often targeted specifically on African Americans, Latinos and the young who voted against Trump by large margins.
The result is to feed extremist anger against American democracy. When masses of people believe the lie that the election was stolen, they will question the result of any election where their candidate loses. If they think the democracy is rigged, the likelihood that they will turn to rebellion and to violence increases as we witnessed on Jan. 6 when Trump partisan sacked the Capitol.
Trump partisans in the Congress refuse even to support an independent investigation of that horror. Republicans blocked creation of an independent commission. Now they are seeking to sabotage the special House investigation. They simply don’t want an honest inquiry which will detail Trump’s responsibility for the riot that sought to stop Congress from certifying the results of the presidential election. They don’t want to expose the complicity of Republican operatives in organizing the mob and the complicity of Republican legislators in stoking the insurrectionary anger.
Trump partisans want Biden to fail, even if it costs American lives. They have worked to discredit U.S. public health officials, to support resistance to sensible measures like wearing a mask and now to spread the rumors and lies that have helped fuel resistance to the vaccine. The direct result is that the new variant is spiking among the unvaccinated across the country, with the U.S. death toll rising once more. Even a pandemic that threatens us all could not bring them to join together in support of responsible action.
Their focus on making Biden fail led congressional Republicans to vote in lockstep against the Rescue Plan that was vital to helping the economy recover and providing a life preserver for the millions displaced when the pandemic forced the shutdown of much of the economy.
Similarly, even as extreme weather savages communities across the country, Trump partisans impede steps to address the real and present danger of climate change. The price of any Republican support for the infrastructure bill was to strip out virtually all measures to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, while blocking any increase in taxes on the wealthy and corporations to help pay for rebuilding the country. Now Republicans in the Senate seem intent on voting in lockstep against the Child Tax Credit that helps families with children, against universal pre-K, against support for childcare, against paid family leave, against expanding Medicare to cover dental and eye care.
Trump has led his followers closer to sedition than to bipartisan cooperation. They spread the big lie about the election and seek to limit the right to vote. They fan fears about the vaccine, and smear public health efforts amid a pandemic. They oppose efforts to help families as the economy reopens and begins to recover. They stand perversely in the way of even the first steps to address climate change.
The most costly war in American history was the Civil War, which broke out when the South seceded to protect the spread slavery to new states joining the Union. Now Trump is fanning the flames of revolt among the minority of Americans that support him. With the economy just beginning to recover, climate change and pandemic threatening us, entrenched racial disparities dividing us, it is time for the majority to act — not to allow an aroused minority and cowed elected officials to stand in the way.