If there is a single underlying theme running through the Democrats’ virtual convention, it’s unity: Joe Biden—a man who has always prided himself on working with his political adversaries–can heal and unify a divided nation. A nation made more divided by a POTUS who stokes Americans’ fear and hatred of other Americans. The Democrats made a strong show of their own unity, presenting speakers representing the wide gamut of the party’s ideological and demographic diversity. The virtual roll call, showing a slice of life in each of the 50 states plus territories, was a nice touch. It’s a big country, and we Democrats embrace its multitudes.
There was also a notable show of outreach across party lines, as evidenced by the presence of Republican luminaries like Colin Powell and John Kasich, even the late John McCain.
Fine. The Trump presidency represents the first serious threat to American democracy since the Civil War. The absolute necessity of defeating that threat justifies the assemblage of the broadest possible coalition, ranging from radicals and left progressive Democrats to principled conservative Republicans. But let’s not kid ourselves. The notion that a soothing, empathetic leader can bring us all back together is so much malarkey. The fact is, we are a very deeply divided nation. More than 40% of us approve of and will vote for a demagogic racist president who would willingly trash the Constitution to remain in power. A large chunk of Americans believe that climate change is a hoax. A large chunk believed and probably still believe that Barak Obama is an African-born terrorist sympathizer. Such values and beliefs have a comfortable home in the Republican Party, whose leaders have done nothing to discourage them and have often promoted them.
So, while Biden and the Democrats are right to reach out to civic-minded Republicans who want to preserve democracy, they need to be mindful that the problem isn’t just Trump. This campaign has to be a partisan fight, aimed at bringing down not just the man in the White House, but the party that enables him. If we are ever to have a decent politics in this country, the radical right-wing personality cult that calls itself the GOP must be crushed, repeatedly, until it is reduced to a hopeless minority of the electorate or is transformed into a responsible party of government. A decisive Democratic win up and down the ticket in November will be a necessary start: it will serve to discredit Trumpism and, hopefully, plant the necessary seeds of change in the Republican Party. It will also give Biden the mandate and the Senate he needs to implement a progressive program that demonstrates that government can work effectively in the interests of the majority. This is certainly our most important presidential election since 1932; maybe the most important since 1860.