While a new year stares us in the face an unanswered question won’t go away. Can the one nation we used to take pride in come back together, or did we finally go too far? Can we trade unity for the insecurities politicians used to split us up?
Americans bumped elbows in Times Square, Chicago, and other big cities to ring in 2017 and probably didn’t stop to wonder who the person next to them voted for. That’s not what celebrating the New Year is about. We look back and hope for something better.
Something better should be easy. Politicians dragged us around by the nose like cattle last year. We let it happen. When it was all over we were one nation divided like never before.
Politics was a grand hoax
The challenge for this year is to admit that much of 2016 politics was a hoax. Politicians condemned fake news but issued press releases and made public statements that misinformed, misled, and aroused anger in voters who didn’t have the time or inclination to confirm the truth of what they were hearing about their choice for president.
Russia’s alleged interference in the presidential election is the example that keeps giving. President Obama tells us that “All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions.”1 If we ignore his apparent inability to protect us from the threat he claims dates back to October,2 the question remains how this changed anything when his pick for a successor got the most popular votes. We don’t have an answer to that, but “election interference” is now an established fact in liberal political circles. What does it mean? There are lots of ideas and conspiracy theories, but no one seems to know for sure.
If Democrats had won none of this would matter. In fact, the government would probably have preferred we not know that the Russians outsmarted us. Asking us to be alarmed because Clinton lost is a truly shameful thing, almost as shameful as our buying into the rhetoric without condemning Obama’s failure to act. Remember that his own party was sounding the alarm months before the election.3
One nation divided: hate was the big seller
Hope wasn’t a big seller last year. Instead, we indulged hate. We hated one or the other candidate for president. We despised politicians who spoke out against our choice. Sometimes hatred extended to employers and employees, friends and neighbors, even husbands and wives. Politics dominated the headlines and the dinner table. How often did we stop to consider that the anger we were feeling came from people who had something to gain by driving us apart?
The strategy worked. By November Americans were at each other’s throats. We were one nation divided by people who claimed to be America’s gatekeepers but proved they were only hucksters abusing the public’s misplaced trust in partisanship.
Working together vs. one nation indivisible
In his final year-end address the president looked back and talked about working together. He mentioned the “incredible promise of our founding,”4 something his use of executive orders called into question.
Community organizing isn’t the same thing as leading. Believing they are one and the same was the big mistake of the Obama presidency. Organizing for an ideology on a national scale only divides people. It doesn’t matter how many times you appeal to unity.
Division was Obama’s parting blow to America. In the end the joke was on us. He failed to install a predecessor to seal his legacy. That failure of a no-compromise Democratic platform has left the nation in a shambles.
There is nothing mysterious about what happened in 2016. Americans put their trust in politicians and turned on each other. We should know better by now. As protesters gear up for inauguration day we can count on more opportunities to find out whether we learned anything, or prefer to remain one nation divided.