No, Politics Won’t Take a Break for the Virus

Trump, for his part, is said to want to establish himself as a “war president” over the struggle in the crisis, but cannot resist optimizing his own rivals from Joe Biden to Mitt Romney.

Is this how the US government should behave in the face of a serious threat to the nation – spending days in the partisan rancor before finally drafting much-needed laws in the middle of the night? Shouldn’t politics be put on ice in a national crisis as usual?

It might be tempting to refer to the concept of “Good old days” when politics stopped at the water’s edge when an endangered nation put political differences aside for reasons of national unity. But these desires should be put on hold. Most of the time, the story of America is a story in which political divisions don’t really press the pause button – even in the face of war, disaster, or economic disaster. For each example of a step towards unity in a crisis, there is a counterexample or two or three in which the political divisions go deep and wide and in some cases deeper and wider. Although it does not appear to be intuitive, it can be a sign of bourgeois strength that these divisions, as bitter as they are sometimes, can be openly expressed even at a time of peril.

Even in crises that seem to have led politics to be put aside, Unity has come if it has only come briefly – and the nation has still prevailed at the other end. Yes, it is true that in the middle of the civil war, as a sign of national unity, President Abraham Lincoln put a Democrat – Tennessee’s military governor and former Senator Andrew Johnson – on his ticket when he ran for re-election in 1864. (Given Johnson’s catastrophic presidency of the White Supremacists, that could have been Lincoln’s worst decision).

But this election was full of party struggles, even beyond the obvious bloody separation between north and south. Many Northerners who were anxious for a quick end to the war accepted the candidacy of George McClellan, the general of the Union whom Lincoln had fired for shyness. At the same time, many Republicans opposed Lincoln’s half-hearted approach to slavery – so much so that they nominated John Fremont for the presidency (Fremont) ultimately refused to run). Overall, the nation’s mood was so sour that Lincoln himself assumed he would lose Re-election; In the end, military victories contributed to Lincoln’s landslide, giving the appearance of national unity.

Yes, Franklin D. Roosevelt sought support from both parties in 1940 when he urged a reluctant nation to mobilize and support Britain in the face of a relentless Nazi bombing campaign. He appointed Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of State Henry Stimson as Secretary of War and Frank Knox – the 1936 GOP vice-presidential candidate – as Secretary of the Navy. And his 1940 enemy, Wendell Willkie, was a supporter of mobilization and gave crucial support to the FDR in establishing a selective peacekeeping service.

But having Willkie there didn’t stop the White House from falling under heavy fire from the GOP’s strong isolationist wing. At the end of October, a republican radio broadcast proclaimed: “If your boy dies on a battlefield in Europe and” Mother! Mother! – Don’t blame President Franklin D. Roosevelt for sending your boy to war – blame yourself for sending Franklin D. Roosevelt back to the White House! “

The nation certainly came together after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, didn’t it? Well, the America First Committee, Charles Lindbergh’s platform for isolationism, quickly disintegrated and only one member of Congress voted against the declaration of war. But less than a year later, the Republicans won in 1942 in the medium term through campaigns against the American war president. Take advantage of the gloomy news from the war and domestic dissatisfaction with the government’s heavy hand. In November this year, Republicans were given 47 seats in the House of Representatives and nine in the Senate.

The guerrilla fires raged much hotter in 1950, just a few months after the U.S. forces began fighting in Korea. Senator Kenneth Wherry of Nebraska said about President Harry Truman: “The blood of our boys in Korea is on his shoulders and nobody else.” The Republican National Committee set up its interim campaign for democratic “mistakes” in Korea. And the Republicans were already fighting the Truman government because of their indifference to, if not total sympathy for, Communists. Earlier this year, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, in a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, charged that there were approximately 200 “well-known communists” in the State Department. “Who lost China?” became a subject of Republican election campaign rhetoric, and the Republican Party won 28 house seats and five Senate seats that year. And two years later, when the Korean War sank into a swamp, the entire 1952 GOP campaign was summarized as the “K1C2” slogan: “Korea, Corruption, and Communism”.

Vietnam is of course called the war that divided the nation, but discontent was brewing long before 1968. As early as October 1965, Ronald Reagan, who was preparing to start his campaign for the governor of California, rightly argued that Lyndon Johnson wasn’t pushing hard enough. “We should declare war on North Vietnam. We could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it and still be home by Christmas, ”said Reagan. At the same time, opposition to war within the Democratic Party grew. Until 1966, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman William Fulbright held hearings questioning the reasons for the war, and Senator Robert Kennedy publicly expressed doubts about the war among other Democrats. By 1968 it had effectively split the party.

As for the Republicans: Shortly before the November elections, Republican candidate Richard Nixon’s election campaign secretly persuaded South Vietnamese leaders not to approve a peace proposal on the eve of the elections – and not only undermined the current president, but among other things, leading Republicans like George Will. to call it “betrayal” later.

If you are looking for examples of real unity, you can point to the atmosphere after the September 11, 2001 attacks, when there was a real sense of patriotic passion, just like in the days shortly after Pearl Harbor. This sense even Survived the Bush administration’s original decision to invade Iraq – the House approved a 296-133 lead in the use of violence and the Senate vote was 77-23. But as in Korea and Vietnam, the local setbacks took a political toll. What helped to save Bush’s reelection was a decidedly unsubtle campaign, suggesting that a John Kerry presidency would expose the nation to another terrorist attack.

You can also see who happened at the end of the 2008 campaign after the financial collapse. Both major party candidates – John McCain and Barack Obama – met with President George W. Bush and others at a meeting in the White House to formulate a common response. But even if the entire global economic structure was at risk, politics was never the focus. When the $ 700 billion measure hit the floor, two-thirds of the Republicans voted against and sent the proposal for defeat. Only after the stock market had suffered its largest decline in history did the house reverse four days later. President Obama fared somewhat better when he put together his own economic recovery plan. His $ 838 billion stimulus package won just three GOP votes in the Senate despite incorporating a large part of the tax cuts. Mitch McConnell, chairman of the Senate Minority, said: “It is wasteful” and “we are taking an enormous risk, an enormous risk, with other people’s money.”

Why should someone express surprise or dismay at a dispute? what to do, what could be the most dangerous crisis in our history? The Senate clashes over the rescue packages and rescue packages reflect deep ideological divisions about where resources should go, whether they should target companies or workers; Other debates revolve around everything from abortion policies to climate change to health care. And is anyone really surprised that Democrats are not accepting the half-trillion dollar idea to be spent at the discretion of the most polarizing president in history, or trying to stop him and his family from benefiting from the massive bailout package?

It says something about the staying power of America’s political institutions that they can maintain violent party-political and ideological arguments even when the nation is under siege. And even if a free society puts the mechanisms of political conflict aside, they won’t be neglected for long. When Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1940, he quickly formed a broad coalition government, including Clement Atlee, leader of the Labor Party. It was only after the V-E day, five years later, that there were no elections at all. You could say that is what national unity looks like. But less than two months after the V-E day, the British people pushed Churchill out of office in a landslide.

As soon as the bombs stopped falling, politics became stronger than ever. And this rapid resumption of partisan struggle was as strong a demonstration as any other that one of the foundations of free society – open, free-spirited, violent debate – was alive and well. Here at home, the same clashes in the Senate that triggered angry words may have resulted in a much better law than one that had been passed without controversial unity. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy: Sometimes – even in a crisis – unity demands too much.

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