The president’s 2020 campaign was kicked off with a frontal attack on four freshman congresswomen for their views on health care and immigration policies. Candidate Trump shouted, tweeted, smirked and alleged that their disagreement with him and his policies meant they “hated” America.
Anyone within earshot of news of the day knows that his claims succeeded in deepening the American divide he sought to create when he campaigned and continue as president. His brazen technique is characterized by “crushing” anyone who disagrees with him or criticizes inequities in America such as the widening wealth gap, the lopsided justice system that favors whites and wealth, a chronic pattern of sexual abuse of children and women and promoting conspiracy theories over scientific research.
Trump has been smashingly successful with his own party and enjoys about a 90 percent approval rating from those who still claim to be Republicans. According to at least one poll, he is at an overall national approval rating of 44 percent, a reported high for this poll.
Who do we say we are?
The fact that anyone could have a 90 percent approval rating for a president in one political party yet have less than a 50 percent approval rating nationally intrigued me. I found a Gallup poll called “Party Affiliation” that reports identified party affiliation in what appears to be a random selection of a few days twice each month. This poll has been reported since 2004.
Respondents were asked, “In politics, as of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, a Democrat or an independent?”
Anyone can look up the poll and, if so inclined, produce a graph of changes related to news headlines. If anyone does, please send me a copy.
Meanwhile, I will give you my cursory overview. Since July 2016, Republicans ranged between 24 and 31 percent of those polled and Democrats ranged between 25 and 35 percent. Independents ranged between 36 and 46 percent; their lowest number beat the high of both established parties.
Doesn’t it make you wonder how we can be so partisan when a great number of us choose not to align with one party? The same poll asked independents to which party did they lean. Just looking at the past 12 months, Democrats plus leaners ranged between 44-53 percent and Republicans ranged between 36-45 percent. It appears that 10-15 percent of independents don’t lean.
Seeing the numbers tells us why a 90 percent approval rating in either party at best represents at best 32 percent of voters and at worst 22 percent of voters. I believe this the base, the segment of a party essential to a win on election day. At least, that’s what both party leaders seem to believe.
All the rest of us are wandering between parties, either not really caring that much about the politics or shifting the more we learn or the less we feel we know.
Making enemies among us
You won’t be surprised to learn that in 2004 the percent of party affiliations and independents was about evenly split. During the intervening years, we experienced the “great recession” which set many people back, some to the point they could not recover.
Since Republicans couldn’t defend the mismanagement of the Bush administration in which the surplus was squandered on lowering taxes while we fought two wars, introducing a fiscally irresponsible Medicare drug program and bringing the country to its financial knees, Republicans went on the offensive.
Republicans supercharged their demonization of others that began in the mid-1990s and started pulling people into the belief that the enemies were us, at least those of us who offered different visions and opinions. “Unpatriotic,” their favorite insult, was applied to any dissent.
Candidate Trump picked up the pace when he entered the presidential race as if it was the moment he had prepared for all his life by initiating an attack on the character of Mexicans who cross the border. He didn’t stop there. He humiliated and demeaned his competitors. He built divisions, pitting groups against groups. He held rallies attended by thousands of people who roared against the media as “enemies of the people” and chanted for the imprisonment of his main opponent while he clapped.
He won the electoral college vote and became the 45th president of the United States.
It is not politics; it is abuse
Our president is successfully destroying unity of purpose, equality of people and equal justice under the law. It’s working for him.
He is energized for the next election and is accelerating his use of words as a machete intended to slash the identity and dignity of most of its citizens – women, people of color, accomplished men who disagree with him and, of course, anyone aligning with the Democratic party.
The president calculates he can own those that share his view that people who are different in view or beliefs should be abused, crushed and sent back to the country of their ancestors.
What can possibly be right about that course of action?
I can’t answer that question even though I recognize it was a winning strategy which Republicans believe will work again.
I know cheering cruelty is wrong.
It’s wrong. Say it again and again. It’s wrong. We have lost our soul as a democracy if no one can win without being cruel to the innocent.
Take hope: the number of independents show that morality, civility and common sense can prevail.
In the meantime, remember to turn off the news of chanting rallies when your children or grandchildren are in the room.
Bertha Cooper spent her career years as a health care organization and program administrator and consultant and is a featured columnist in Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.