- Instead of bringing the American people together, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the depths of our partisan divides.
- People on different sides of the political aisle are treating the pandemic differently, absorbing different news, and focusing on different political outcomes.
- Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesperson for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Our nation has a terrible disease. It goes beyond the coronavirus pandemic that has taken a human, social, and economic toll. It’s in the roots of our politics.
We are so divided that not even in the midst of a world-shaking pandemic can we bridge the gap. As the country debates reopening, the lack of unity among politicians and the public portends a dangerous roadmap for future threats.
The opportunity of crisis
COVID-19 has shown a weakness in the American societal infrastructure. There were warnings about the coming health crisis, but our lack of preparedness left us exposed.
There is opportunity to learn from this pandemic, and to imagine what else is on our horizon and how to preempt it.
Bill Gates has repeatedly warned of the dangers of a natural or even man-made pandemic similar to the coronavirus. With its intentionality, bioterror could make today’s pandemic look quaint.
We’re at varying stages of aggression with North Korea, China, and Iran, and it’s not hard to contemplate an escalation that puts our country on wartime footing.
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The climate crisis demands bold measures to combat an enormous impact on our daily lives, including clean water shortages, extreme weather events, and rising sea levels.
But there are two issues preventing us from effectively managing these potential threats: as of now Americans do not have the collective will and resources to prepare for the next unimaginable, and our political leaders appear to be incapable of responding in a unified way that puts country first. If the coronavirus has taught us anything, we are too divided to stop or even battle the inevitable.
Clarity in unity
Based on each state’s response to the coronavirus, there’s been much speculation in traditional and social media as to whether GOP- or Democrat-dominated states will be hit harder by the disease. In a more perfect union, there should be no concern about the partisan lean of those hit by the disease, but in 2020 America, there’s a political side to every subject.
One light in an otherwise dark moment in government is the bipartisan relief legislation passed by Congress. But fiscal hawks — those who want to pare down our economic response for fear of the national debt — are starting to gain traction amid the one sign of comity.
A marker of our partisanship is that neither side is sufficiently comfortable criticizing its own and complimenting the other team.
Several personalities on Fox News are essentially Trump TV, which makes it the echo chamber of Red America. MSNBC and CNN, which report through a blue lens, still have the integrity to criticize their own, but the lens still screens out clarity. Across the landscape, the focus is as much on scoring political points as it is on the potential to save lives.
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We’ve seen a few encouraging moves – for example, Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham and Rep. Doug Collins criticized Governor Brian Kemp for reopening too fast. Members of both parties spoke out on some of Trump’s most extreme actions – like claiming total authority over the coronavirus response or making dangerous claims about ingesting disinfectants. Some Democrats and Republicans are even praising colleagues across the aisle.
The ability to criticize one’s own or find uncommon accord is refreshing, but it shouldn’t be. With existential threats upon us, it is the core of our autonomy. It is the path for representatives of our democracy to bring us through crisis.
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