(Note: The writer is answering the question: “Are Americans more divided now than at any time in their history?”)
WASHINGTON — The United States political landscape is more divided than it has been since the Vietnam and civil rights era some 50 years ago and in many ways is even more polarized.
The style and content of Donald Trump’s presidency is a major factor in this division and our country is suffering as a result.
Division is nothing new in politics or in personal life. Since the formative years of our nation, differences existed and infiltrated our earliest political debates.
Each one of us is divided in simple or perhaps complex ways in our most basic life functions too. At school, at work, in our neighborhoods we take sides and defend our positions. We divide ourselves into tribes in many aspects of our lives.
There are those in private and public life who seek to gain power and profit, though, from our natural inclination to tribalism. We must understand this and should tread carefully but most of us do not.
Citizen, candidate, and now President Trump has spent a life adhering to the “divide and conquer” philosophy in his business and now in his politics.
By breaking up and dividing folks to consolidate his power and scatter the power of his adversaries, President Trump is playing a dangerous game with our democratic society.
The lists of Trump tactics and topics on this strategy are long. Race, economic status, gender, political party, social issues and so on have all been on his menu and often in ugly ways.
The division spills out into our voting, our social media feeds, and perhaps most notably into how Congress is conducting the people’s business.
As I write this, immigrant families continue to be divided, U.S. senators are bickering over Supreme Court nomination proceedings, elections are being conducted, and it’s all done under the shadow of the divisions that Trump seeks to exploit.
The marches, protests and riots of Vietnam and civil rights era have given way to marches and protests now.
The deep division, partisanship and distrust of the Nixon and Watergate era echoes eerily in the questions about Trump and his campaign’s potential involvement with a hostile Russian government.
As a result we now live in a nation where each and every morsel of information is filtered through the lens of our divisions.
Anything that contradicts the established view of our tribe is immediately cast aside or even labeled “fake” to feed our tribalism and division.
Along the way, Trump tweets away, fueling this division. He creates confusion while speaking to his tribe while stirring anger from those tribes organized against him furthering the divide.
And we largely play our role as the faithfully divided. Democrats and liberals recoil at every turn. Republicans and conservatives cheer or, in the most repulsive moments, remain silent in approval.
The division even exists within tribes. Conservatives are split between the Trump loyalists and those who, even in their frequent silence, find Trump’s tactics distasteful.
Progressives are divided between the more moderate and more liberal wings. These subdivisions are making it even more difficult to rally against those seeking to divide us.
Open and honest debate of our differences great and small can actually be an empowering process. At different points in our history we have come out of periods of deep division stronger while in others we have come out weaker from the fight.
Time will tell how we as a nation move forward from our current division. What do we do to break the trend and refuse to be conquered?
Only when we begin to listen, question, seek understanding and break down the walls of prejudice that are impeding us will we take the first steps in a more positive direction.
Don Kusler is National Director of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), the nation’s most experienced progressive advocacy organization. Readers may write him at ADA, 1629 K Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20006.