Has the American public ever been so divided in modern times? The gulf between those who identify as Republicans and those who identify as Democrats has perhaps never been wider in our lifetimes. The Presidential Election of 2016 was divisive, monumental, but 2020 was division on hyper drive. Whether it be the Covid-19 pandemic, social issues, or simply accepting the election results of last year, Americans are increasingly living in two different Americas.
It was inevitable that the winner, be it Biden or Trump, would have to find a way to bridge the gap or unavoidably drive the wedge further. On paper, President Biden is giving the reunification of American politics a try by creating a new position within the Office of Public Engagement to facilitate outreach to Republicans and their voters.
Bloomberg reports that the idea to create this outreach position was created in acknowledgement of the dire division infecting the country’s political landscape and the need for the Democrat administration to find common ground with their ideological adversaries.
Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond, who would ultimately resign his seat, was a senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement for then president-elect Biden and is heading the efforts to set up and run this office.
“We’re not elected just to help Democrats or urban cities or minorities. We were elected to help this entire country and that means reaching out to conservatives, that means reaching out to rural areas, reaching out to people who didn’t vote for us,” he told Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council in December, according to Bloomberg.
Part of Richmond’s mandate is to look for areas of bipartisan agreement with Republican lawmakers and act as a conduit to the White House on issues that both parties can work together on. Richmond hopes that areas affecting the economy specifically will be areas of collaboration that both parties can agree to. He believes infrastructure is one item that can help initiate his project.
“The famous words are, there’s no such thing as a Democratic bridge or a Republican bridge.”
Of course, his vision of “a very quick infrastructure bill to put people to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure making the country, greener and cleaner,” smacks of the left’s pet project Green New Deal, which will likely be a no go for Republicans in the first place.
Indeed, Richmond’s assertions that “we will just do those things we find that are absolutely necessary to do and if that means raising the corporate tax rate to achieve infrastructure investment, which is important to both business and to normal everyday citizens, I think that that may be some middle ground that everybody can support,” flies in the face of the bipartisan label his office is advertising. While Americans may find the value in infrastructure upgrades, it is unlikely Republicans would find raising corporate tax rates a worthy compromise, or that their constituents would trade their opposition to radical climate agendas to get it.
While Biden’s attempt to bring Americans together through good old fashion compromise is a noble pursuit, it remains to be seen if partisanship will in fact be left outside the negotiating rooms in a meaningful way. It is far more likely that tensions will be eased through tabling ideological pursuits like the Green New Deal altogether. Hopefully Biden’s Republican outreach will focus on issues Americans can agree on, instead of looking for ways to force through things that they don’t.
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