Every so often, amidst political chaos, the word unity rises from the ashes like a dark phoenix.
And, general speaking, this is a positive Democratic exercise. Unity is a welcoming term filled with altruistic qualities: cooperation, reciprocity, solidarity, and stability.
In short, unity forces to coalesce around set of values and principles while compromising on other ideals in good faith.
But I urge all my fellow Americans to refrain from an eagerness to quickly amalgamate around certain notion of unity. Because, to genuinely come together we must first confront our nation’s stark divisions.
For all the discussion for unifying, America is incredibly divided as ever on people, principles and policy.
Last month, the Pew Research center released a comprehensive study revealing the vastly different universes Democrat leaning and Republican leaning constituents live in.
Democratic voters are becoming less white, less religious and better-educated at a faster rate than the country as a whole, while aging at a slower rate. Within the GOP, the pattern is the opposite: Republican voters are becoming more diverse, better-educated and less religious at a slower rate than the country generally, while the age profile of the GOP is growing older more quickly than that of the entire nation. According to an August 2017 Pew Survey Sixty-seven percent of Democrats say their closest friends share their political preferences, while 57 percent of Republican voters surround themselves with homies who share their ideology.
Over the past six years, the share of constituents from the party of Obama and other left-leaning independents saying the government should do more to help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt, has risen 17 percentage points (from 54% to 71%), while the views of Reagan’s party and conservative leaners have barely changed (25% then, 24% today). However, Republicans’ opinions on this issue had shifted substantially between 2007 and 2011, with the share favoring more aid to the needy falling 20 points (from 45% to 25%).
The share of Democrats who say immigrants strengthen the country has increased from 32% in 1994 to 84% today. By contrast, the constituents from the current party in control, are divided on the topic of immigrants: 42% say they strengthen the country, while 44% view them as a burden. In 1994, 30% of George W. Bush’s party said immigrants strengthened the country, while 64% said they were a burden.
When the racial discrimination question was first asked in 1994 (by Pew and Gallop), the partisan difference was 13 points. By 2009, it was only somewhat larger (19 points). But today, the gap in opinions between Republicans and Democrats about racial discrimination and black advancement has increased to 50 points.
Opinions on the size of government, race relations, national security and the environment are also worlds apart. Republican and Democrats also disagreeon preferred places to live, TV shows, restaurant preferences, and even coffee choices. And this week, whether a pedophile is a pedophile.
The only thing that they agree on is both groups adore Taylor Swift (underscoring the need to scrutinize the things Americans are united on).
So, how do we begin to confront these pre-unity challenges?
Initially, it’s understanding what we would all ideally what want to be united about and what’s keeping us from doing so. A good place to start would be defining the American dream.
This countries glory has so often resided in its ability to instill this existential idea; one where hard work pays off and a better future for the next generation exists. And its drawback has been its failure helping many at the lower rungs of the economic and social ladder from having any hope in such vision.
As New York Times columnist Anand Ghirdharadas eloquently stated in his speech at the Obama Summit, “There is a way of talking about the American dream that recognizes that some have never lived it, others are mad at having lost it — and still others resent having to share it.”
Mr. Ghirdharadas further opined, “You don’t have to endorse that last sentiment to try to speak to it. Don’t boo. Woo.”
Like many, I have mixed feelings between booing or wooing the last sentiment. But I do understand the need to acknowledge that these three camps will never be united unless we first come together to understand the complex and rich history that formed these three economic mobility buckets. I also further understand that confronting these divides will be ugly, contentiously bitter, and frankly uncomfortable.
But until we do that, unity is an idealist illusion that will be never become a reality.