Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday November 17, 2020
America’s divisions run deeper than you think
As the dust finally settles two weeks after the American-election earthquake, two undeniable facts are now clear.
First, whatever Donald Trump says, Joe Biden was elected president. Second, before Biden can put his progressive agenda fully to work, he must achieve the political equivalent of scaling a sheer, vertical mountain face.
To comprehend Biden’s predicament, look beyond the bitterly divided country he will lead. He’s also the head of a seriously splintered Democratic Party that agreed to a truce long enough to defeat the common enemy of President Donald Trump but then immediately returned to fighting itself.
This internecine conflict, along with ongoing confusion over what the party truly stands for, partly explains why the Democratic landslide so many pollsters predicted never materialized. Remember how, just before the election, the Democrats had high hopes of winning America’s political trifecta; the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate?
Poll after poll buoyed these expectations. And with the always outrageous Trump bungling his way through a pandemic, economic crisis and the most serious racial unrest in a half century, the planets seemed aligned for a historic Democratic victory.
Pretty much any Democratic body with a healthy pulse should have been able to trounce Trump, or so it seemed. Why this didn’t happen should result in some profound Democratic soul-searching. Yes, Biden won the presidency, but in many of the states he carried, he did so by razor-thin margins.
Somehow, the Democrats managed to lose seats in the House of Representatives. Nor does it seem likely they’ll wrest control of the Senate from Republican hands. As a result, Biden’s dreams of massive infrastructure spending, a concerted nationwide campaign against climate change as well as overdue health-care reforms could remain just that — dreams.
The Democrats are at loggerheads over why they didn’t do better — a dispute that should itself point to the answer they need. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-proclaimed democratic “socialist” who sits in the House of Representatives, blamed incompetent party strategists and their failure to tack farther to the left.
To which Democratic Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger replied, the party should never again use the words “socialist” or “socialism,” and stop talking about defunding the police.
To be sure, this is a fight the Democrats must settle themselves. But it’s worth noting the Democrats made Biden president by persuading more Democrats to come out and vote, not by convincing Republicans to abandon Trump. Millions of more people voted for Trump in 2020 than did in 2016. To really make a difference moving forward, the Democrats need to win over some of those Americans.
As hard it will be for his opponents to admit, Trump expanded his base, including with Black and Hispanic voters. Despite this, the post-election Republicans are also divided, uncertain whether they should stick with Trumpist populism or whether their future lies in more moderate, centrist politics.
What happens next matters greatly, not just to the U.S. but other countries, including Canada, which have experienced sharp, political polarization within, as well as between, political parties. For instance Erin O’Toole, who billed himself as a “true blue” Tory before becoming leader of Canada’s federal Conservatives, is suddenly flirting with populism.
It is fitting that Biden has pledged to be a great unifier and healer. We hope he brings his country together. But first he must unite his own party. Politics has been called the art of the possible. In a democracy, politics can also be categorized as the fine art of compromise. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)