As red, white and blue fireworks burst through the air Monday night, politics may not be at the forefront of most people’s minds.
Yet, a gritty partisan era undeniably permeates everyone’s life.
In another example of startling political disruption, a Supreme Court activist, sheltered behind high metal fences in his Washington marble chambers, has just stripped millions of women’s constitutional right to abortion. The decision validates a half-century campaign by conservative activists, many of whom have sincere moral objections to abortion, which they equate with the killing of an unborn child.
No more reasons to be glum
Social tensions are exacerbated by economic pressure.
The war in Ukraine is making food bills more expensive and gasoline has reached record prices. Biden’s embattled presidency seems out of ideas on how to help after potentially worsening the situation by pumping hundreds of millions of dollars in spending into the economy.
Gun crime in cities recalls a more violent past, and every Monday brings a grim toll of weekend mass shootings.
The shadow of Trump’s violent coup attempt hangs over the country.
A wave of voting restrictions in many conservative-run states and the GOP’s refusal to renew voting rights legislation recall a poisonous era of racial repression. Liberals who once dreamed of a new Franklin Roosevelt are unhappy with the results of their narrow monopoly on political power in Biden’s Washington. But their radicalism also risks alienating the crucial middle ground of voters who should be up for grabs as the GOP plunges to the right.
Incredibly, the country is struggling to make enough infant formula to feed its babies – and has to bring in emergency supplies from abroad – a metaphor if there ever was one for a time when things just don’t seem to be going very well.
A Nation Deeply Divided
Almost every day there is a political controversy or fight that underscores the antagonism between America’s more moderate, diverse, and socially tolerant cities and suburbs and the conservatism of rural America.
Many leaders on both sides of the aisle are accentuating differences for political gain, only adding to the sense of anger that runs through the country. Elected leaders who seek to bring together those with differing opinions are an endangered species.
Increasingly, for those who think about politics, each side of the divide sees the other as an existentialist threat to their idea of America – a schism of perception particularly demonstrated in recent weeks by the struggle between supporters and opponents. the right to abortion.
On the right, disillusionment with the government itself — which has fueled Trump’s rise to power and is exacerbated by his lies about voter fraud — is a driving force in a Republican party that’s giving up on democracy.
On the left, more and more people see a Supreme Court that openly flouts majority opinion as illegitimate. The high court was once considered above partisan flames. But even its judges were caught up in a wave of fury, with sniping more characteristic of social media than Supreme Court opinions. During oral arguments ahead of last month’s landmark overturning of Roe v. Wade, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor wondered if the court could “survive the stench” of the removal of abortion rights. In his majority opinion which did just that, Judge Samuel Alito reveled in dismissing the reasoning behind Roe as “grossly wrong”.
The Supreme Court was once seen as a moderating force for stability. But in its new zeal to tear up precedents, the conservative majority has turned it into a new force for destabilizing society.
Reasons to hope
So, what are the reasons for hope on this Independence Day? Biden insists things aren’t as bad as they seem, seeking to fulfill that part of a president’s duties that involves strengthening the country.
“You haven’t found one person, one world leader to say America is backing down,” the president insisted as he wrapped up a visit to Europe last week.
“America is better positioned to lead the world than we have ever been. We have the strongest economy in the world. Our inflation rates are lower than any other country in the world,” he said. he declared, while being somewhat sparing with the truth when it comes. to the surge in inflation he once rejected.
Biden, of course, has an interest in painting things better than they are, especially heading into the midterm elections in which Democrats are likely to suffer from his lower approval rating. 40%.
But all is not black. Biden has pulled the United States out of the depths of the pandemic recession. Prices may be high and consuming wage gains, but unemployment is at a 50-year low. This could cushion the impact of a recession that many experts fear.
Hindsight has shown that Biden’s declaration of partial independence from Covid-19 on July 4 was premature – and politically unwise. But life is much closer to normal than a year ago and the United States is better prepared to deal with any resurgence of Covid-19 in the fall. There are plenty of vaccinations to be done, but again, politics seems to threaten the common good by refusing to take such precautions, a badge of honor among some rank-and-file conservatives.
Washington may not be as badly broken as it seems. Since last year, Republicans and Democrats have teamed up to pass a huge new law fixing the country’s aging infrastructure — a task that has eluded recent presidents before Biden. And after an agreement between Republicans and Democrats, the Senate passed one of the most sweeping gun safety laws in a generation. The measure could have fallen far short of pleas from grief-stricken family members of mass shooting victims in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. But it was a sign that even in this vicious political climate, gradual change shaped by political institutions is not impossible.
For the first time in two decades, Americans are not fighting major wars abroad. And Biden’s leadership of the West in resisting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could represent the most significant display of American global leadership since the Cold War.
The bravery of those who resisted Trump’s attempt to steal power in 2020 is also inspiring this July 4th. Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, vice chair of the House Jan. 6 committee, may alienate liberals with her political views, but she has made history for herself by standing up for democracy, unlike many his genuflecting GOP rivals who run perpetually in fear of Trump.
Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide to Trump, shamed far more senior colleagues by showing how one person can take a stand for the truth with her televised testimony before the House committee investigating the Capitol uprising.
And if the majority of the country that didn’t want to see Roe overthrown wants an example of turning a demoralizing defeat into an eventual victory, they can look to the anti-abortion movement’s years of activism to see how political change can be. forged by generations of activists who remain committed to the goal.
Because this 4th of July, America still has a democratic political system that can be shaped by the people.
At least, that’s the case for now.