By Luiz Reis – Student Journalist
The United States has been in a unique position over the course of the last few months. The country is as divided as we could have ever imagined, and it is hard to find common ground between two sides that differ on key issues. As a nation, we have let our differences, and many times radicalism, get the best of us.
We are at a point, as the greatest nation in world, where many people are hurting. The year 2020 has been far from kind to us and has surprised us with many new obstacles. From the coronavirus, to conflicts with racism, to the most tumultuous election of all time—we have seen it all.
The partisan politics in the country have also influenced many people in the U.S. to get behind causes that serve little to no purpose, and that do not help move the nation further along. We have seen a story repeat itself for the last few years. Republicans and Democrats seem to not be able to find common points of interest, and it all seems to be a fight for more power. Maybe all of this is the result of a polarized system we as Americans have created for ourselves but finding a mutual interest and allowing our country to heal is not as far away as people may think it is.
On Dec. 5, 2016, just four short years ago, the U.S. Senate had a meeting over which then Vice President Joe Biden presided. During this meeting, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid worked together to pass a motion to rename a bill aimed to speed up cancer research after Biden’s son Beau, who passed away in 2015 after battling brain cancer.
During this time, Sen. McConnell, a Republican, explained to Biden and the rest of the senators that this was a decision they came to as a result of Biden’s fierce fight to find more funding for cancer research.
“Today, the Senate would like to specifically acknowledge (Biden’s) efforts to help Americans struggling with cancer,” McConnell said. “He’s known the cruel toll this disease can take. But he hasn’t let it defeat him. He’s chosen to fight back. He’s taken a leading role. And the Senate will soon pass the 21st Century Cures Act as a testament to his tremendous effort.”
This motion made then Vice President Biden clearly emotional as he did not object and gave way for this change.
In a similar way in 2008, Americans witnessed one of the greatest presidential campaigns in history between Barack Obama and John McCain. When it was clear on election night that Obama had secured the presidency, Sen. McCain, in an emotional speech, acknowledged Sen. Obama and his capacity to lead the nation.
“In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans, who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president, is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.”
This was the same year in which McCain fiercely defended his opponent during a town hall event while on his campaign trail, when voters questioned Obama’s competency and integrity.
“He is a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues” McCain said as he answered a question from a voter. “He is a person you do not have to be scared [of] as President of the United States.”
These different occasions that are not too far in the past are very different than what we have been seeing today in American politics. Almost every senate hearing is fueled with anger, disagreements and fierce arguments. The turmoil in Washington reflects on members of society all over the country and many cities across the U.S. have watched closely as these conflicts develop. A bipartisan effort is hard to come by nowadays and the radicalization of members of each party has made it difficult to imagine a world in which some type of peace and unity can be restored.
Many of the members of the American political system that were mentioned in these examples, are still around and active today. 2008, 2016, and the years in between are not as far behind us as many would believe. Years back, they were able to achieve great accomplishments with a bipartisan base and decency. If they are able to get back to that in these years that follow, it will not cure the nation immediately, but it will certainly be a good start as we seek to heal.