Post-Trump, will the nation be unified? Don’t bet on it

Last Saturday I attended a reunion for extended family members in a beautiful campground up Logan Canyon. It was great to reconnect with many nieces, nephews, cousins, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, aunts, uncles, etc., and get updates on their lives and many challenges.

One topic of conversation we generally avoided at the reunion was politics. That’s because a really fast way to mess up a reunion and alienate a beloved family member is to bring up Pres. Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Black Lives Matter, measures to mitigate COVID-19 (like wearing masks and socially distancing), and so forth.

An older family member told me that within her own family she has children and grandchildren who love Trump and believe an evil cabal comprised of the news media, leftist Democrats and some business moguls are attempting to destroy him and turn America into a fascist/socialist state. She has other family members who can’t stand Trump. One grandchild is out protesting with Black Lives Matter on at least a weekly basis and is convinced America is a racist nation and police violence against black people is rampant.

Opinions are also highly divided and emotional over protests and riots, the seriousness of COVID-19, government mandates to wear masks, and need to social distance, and whether schools and businesses should re-open.

This sort of division within families, neighborhoods and communities is not going to end any time soon. Many hope the nation can be more unified if Trump is defeated. They’re hoping for a return to “normalcy” if Joe Biden wins, Democrats win the Senate and thus control the entire federal government.

In reality, if that happens, the nation’s discord and acrimony may actually get worse.

If Democrats win control, they will be pressured by their base to the left, not to the center. They will have intra-party battles and Joe Biden will not be able to unify them. And Republicans certainly won’t project a united front. The Trump faction will battle with the never-Trumpers for control of the party.

And neither party will be motivated to give the other any wins. Senate Republicans will be able to thwart most liberal Democratic initiatives. So Democrats may jettison the filibuster. If they do so, they will most certainly overreach with arch-liberal policies and alienate much of America. They could be trounced in the 2022 mid-term election.

I believe that most citizens are centrists. But policymaking at the federal level is so dysfunctional and fractured that I see nothing but partisan and ideological bickering for the foreseeable future no matter who wins the presidency. And with COVID-19 still raging, and many cities already experiencing protests and riots over police action and racial inequality, we could see more unrest at the local level. Far right and far left agitators might begin to clash if either side feels the election was rigged. A poor economy, with many people out of work, could exacerbate the anger and volatility.

I’m sorry to paint a bleak picture, and I certainly hope it doesn’t come to this. As a mainstream conservative, I believe in compromise where both sides actually give up some of what they want to come together for the greater good. But I don’t believe in unilateral political surrender, and I just don’t see either side being willing to compromise very much.

In my more than 45 years of closely watching politics, I’ve never been so pessimistic about the performance and future of the federal government.

I do believe we can do much better in Utah and be more unified. In fact, the solution to this whole political mess is to rely more on governance at the state and local levels. But we will still be heavily impacted by what happens nationally.