LEXINGTON, Ky. – Hillary Clinton announced her decision to run for president of the United States on Sunday, April 12, 2015.
Democrats rejoiced, while Republicans groaned. And, so, the cycle of partisan divides continues.
Though voters are supposed to cast ballots for candidates, many instead follow party lines (Democrats vote only for those on the Democratic ticket, and vice versa).
I would also argue the climate is becoming even more partisan (much to my dismay).
Let’s look at the facts.
President Barack Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address to Congress and the American people on Monday, Jan. 20, 2015.
Though the commander in chief praised the nation for “turning the page” to a new era in America, several representatives (undeniably members of the Republican Party) cheered and applauded when the president proclaimed, “I have no more campaigns to run.”
His (typical liberal) response?
The president turned toward the source of the uproar (again, unmistakably the conservatives in the audience), remarking “I know because I won both of them.” Then, he grinned, smug as a bug in a rug.
His aside was followed by a standing ovation.
This 30-second excerpt of the hour-long State of the Union address was considered by many to be the highlight of the night. My personal Twitter feed was filled with links to the video on YouTube and various news websites. Current event discussions in many of my classes also focused on the president’s “epic one-liner.”
I can only imagine George Washington rolling over in his grave.
Our first (and reluctant) president strongly discouraged the formation of political parties in America, which is putting it lightly. He believed further dividing the country into factions would only undermine the unity Americans fought for in the war against Great Britain.
One of his more popular quotes on the subject reads: “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Unfortunately, Washington’s predictions have become 2015’s reality.
Even more unfortunately, President Obama and the Democrats were not the only party present wearing bipartisan badges on their sleeves. In fact, the Republican Party issued five – yes, five – rebuttals to the president’s State of the Union address.
Joni Ernst, the new Republican senator from Iowa, was chosen to deliver the party’s “official” response. Or more accurately, a break-up letter to the president and the Democratic Party.
“We appreciate the president sharing his [opinion and views],” Ernst said. “Tonight, though, rather than respond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your priorities. I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again.”
Ernst went on to describe her modest, humble background growing up in an Iowa family in an attempt to connect with the working class.
I don’t think the blue blazer was a lucky coincidence, either.
The senator also recalled wearing bread bags over her shoes to protect them from the rain (she only had one pair when she was a little girl). This anecdote later sparked the “bread bag” meme on social media websites, particularly Twitter, which quickly became a trending topic. Users uploaded photos of shoes carved out of loaves of bread (literally “loafers”).
From there, things only continued to go a-rye.
Carlos Curbelo, the Republican representative from Florida, delivered the Spanish language response, a sign of the conservatives’ efforts to reach out to the nation’s Hispanic population.
The Tea Party offered its own rebuttal to the president’s address from Curt Clawson, also a Republican representative from Florida.
Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, later delivered a response via his YouTube channel.
In the past, the Republican Party has sought to deliver a unified response to the Democratic president’s State of the Union address. Hence, one response to the speech. However, the unusually large number of rebuttals we’ve seen this week indicates division among conservatives, as well as between parties.
Or, just a bunch of jealous politicians looking to steal the spotlight.
The state of the union is worse than we thought.
“There is no clear leadership in the Republican Party right now, no clear direction or message, and no way to enforce discipline,” said Mark McKinnon, a veteran Republican strategist who has become an outspoken critic of his party, told The New York Times in an interview. “And because there’s a vacuum, and no shortage of cameras, there are plenty of actors happy to audition.”
These actors (better known as “politicians”) all want to play the leading role in the drama that is U.S. politics. But, without the supporting actors, there’s no story.
Or, in this case, no legislation being passed.
Despite his immature and (openly) partisan response during the speech (cue my eye roll), Obama did made an effort to address the bipartisanship issue during the State of the Union, calling on the new Republican Congress to pursue ideas that are practical, rather than partisan.
“When it comes to issues like infrastructure and research, I know there’s bipartisan support in this chamber. Members of both parties have told me so.”
The president also made a commitment to the Republican Party to seek out their ideas, vowing to work with conservatives to make the U.S. a stronger nation. “A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears,” Obama said. “A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other; where we talk issues and values and principles and facts, rather than ‘gotcha’ moments or trivial gaffes or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Unfortunately, the State of the Union has become an arena for bipartisan shouting matches, each party launching rhetorical attacks against the other.
If we want to prove once and for all “…we are still more than a collection of red and blue states; that we are the United States of America,” politicians on both sides of the aisle need to set aside their partisan differences.
Compromise is a beautiful thing.
And, if politicians continue to squabble like children, maybe it’s our kids who should be proposing and passing new legislation for our country.
After all, they are the Americans citizens who are taught “sharing is caring.”