I have been following politics for a long time, and it has never been as depressing as now. I don’t remember a time when partisanship was this striking, when Americans were more divided.
I believe partisanship reached a boiling point during the Obama administration, the most overt sign being Mitch McConnell’s decree upon Obama’s election that the #1 Republican priority would be to make him a one-term president. How patriotic is that?! On taking control of the Senate in 2010, McConnell followed through by making sure Obama would have no more big accomplishments.
When did the division of America reach criticality? It was with the advent of Trump, but he was not the instigator, the cause. Trump took advantage of growing distrust of a less-than-helpful government that had become even less helpful (by plan) under McConnell’s leadership. McConnell knew that Obama, as leader of our country, would be blamed for a do-nothing government, a government that was powerless to rectify, among other injustices, the huge wealth gap that had become even larger in recent years.
Couple the inability of Obama to help the middle and lower classes with another problem, the growing fear and disgust held by the white working class of the “browning of America” and you got a revolution of angry, less-educated white men for which Trump was greatly attractive. He appealed to both overt and latent racism in America from day one when he questioned the citizenship of Barack Obama.
You can slam Trump for his character flaws and mental issues that psychiatrists have affirmed. You can be dismayed by his childish in-eloquence and self-serving showmanship. But don’t think he’s stupid. He is street smart. He recognized that many believed that the Washington “swamp” was the cause of our problems, not the solution. He knew that many Americans feared dark-skinned people and non-Christians. And he perceived how to take advantage of a new communication tool (Twitter) whereby he could get his message directly to people without the filter of the press. In fact, he declared the press to be not only “fake news” but also “the enemy of the people.” “Don’t trust the press; trust me!” He claimed he was not a politician, but that was BS. He knew the first principle of a good politician is to tell people what they wanted to hear.
Trump made a cynical calculation before he was elected, one he maintains to this day. It was better to have a dedicated “base” of zealots that he could rely on than a much larger, but less dedicated, more moderate group (the entire American electorate). Divide and conquer.
Of the 81 million voters responsible for Joe Biden’s win in November 2020, three stand out for me because of their appeal to the most reliable Democratic voting bloc in American history, the black vote.
Ex-president Barack Obama threw his considerable popularity behind Joe Biden by actively campaigning for him in key battleground states.
Stacy Abrams was a relentless organizing force for black voters, not just in Georgia, but across the nation via TV appearances.
But the person most responsible for Joe Biden’s win, in my view, was the one most responsible for Biden’s nomination as the Democratic candidate, Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Clyburn endorsed Joe Biden in an impassioned speech on February 26, six days before the “Super Tuesday” primary in South Carolina. At that time, Biden had not won a single primary and was running about fourth in national polls.
It is remarkable that Representative Clyburn hardly mentioned any policy positions advocated by Biden. He spoke with obvious emotion of Biden’s leadership, character, integrity, and desire for equality. He coined the phrases that would become Biden’s campaign slogans – “We know Joe” and “joe knows us”.
If I could thank only one person for Biden’s win, other than Biden himself, it would be Jim Clyburn.
Bob Moores retired from Black & Decker/DeWalt in 1999 after 36 years. He was the Director of Cordless Product Development at the time. He holds a mechanical engineering degree from Johns Hopkins University.