Although 2021 is already part of history, it has left us with—among many other things—two discouraging and worrisome aspects: on the one hand, a new COVID-19 variant that is already devastating the world over and, on the other, a nation and a Congress—here in the United States—that is dangerously divided, not only in its ability to effectively confront a virus that is here to stay, but to advance a legislative agenda that helps us as a country. This division continues to put the democratic foundation of this republic at risk.
It was really painful to see how, during the commemoration of the first anniversary of the attempted coup by Trump fanatics—which resulted in destruction, chaos, and deaths in the federal Capitol Building—Republicans stood out for their absence, insisting on turning the page because “there’s nothing to see here,” as the song goes.
One year and two months after the election that Democrat Joe Biden won and Republican Donald J. Trump lost, we continue to hear the great lie on behalf of those Republicans, that Biden won by “fraud” and he is not the legitimately elected president. It’s not that they actually believe it, but they exploit it to maintain the support of an ever-growing segment of the Republican Party that has become the cult of Trump.
Witness the discredited Republican Congressman from Florida, Matt Gaetz, exploiting another conspiracy theory and saying that the attack on the Capitol was actually planned and perpetrated by the federal government itself, in order to discredit Trump.
To demonstrate the level of division in which we find ourselves as a country, consider that it was former Vice-President Dick Cheney who accompanied his daughter, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, to the commemoration ceremony that the Democrats organized this January 6. Dick Cheney always generated Democratic criticism for his ultraconservative positions and his central role in initiating the war in Iraq, based on lies about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in that country. But the fight against the Trumpism that has engulfed the Republican Party, has placed Cheney and the Democrats on the same side. If Cheney is now a Democratic ally, imagine the level of extremism of the “Trumpistas.”
The nation was already divided before COVID appeared in our collective and personal lives. But there is no doubt that these divisions have been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic, because Republicans have been exploiting it politically, attacking the health measures that we have tried to implement in order to minimize the virus’ impact—from vaccines to masks.
What’s most worrisome if that the divided Democratic Party doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of what is happening under its noses.
Following Biden’s triumph in November 2020, many people thought that reason and common sense would finally reign. But Biden has not only run into the wall of Republican opposition to his agenda, but into the Democrats’ own internal divisions which, at the end of the day, are what have prevented legislative achievements of all sorts from social programs to infrastructure, protection of the right to vote, and immigration.
Essentially, Biden is entering a midterm election year without accomplishments, to date, that he can present to voters; internal divisions in his party; a Republican Party that is already certain it will take the majority back from Democrats in Congress; and a nation with a pandemic that is having repercussions at all levels: personal, collective, economic, educational, and political.
What’s most worrisome if that the divided Democratic Party doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of what is happening under its noses; and the Republican Party, once again, is trying to win political gains sustained on lies, ignorance, xenophobia, racism, and with the support of a segment of the electorate that has proven that it does not mind literally trampling on the Constitution and democratic institutions.
Seen from afar, what is happening in U.S. politics may be improbable, but it is also very real. The Democrats have to wake up, not only to try to maintain their narrow majorities in Congress this year, or the White House in 2024. They are waging a battle for democracy in this nation; a democracy battered by the Trump presidency and wounded by the 2020 election and the Republican attempts to annul the will of the people. Biden and his party are going to need a lot more than pretty speeches and vigils to confront the virus of hate and extremism that has infected the Republican Party and which, like COVID, continues to extend its tentacles across the nation.
Maribel Hastings is a Senior Advisor to América’s Voice.
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