The Struggle for the Soul of America: Can We Come Together in a National Emergency?

Whether one is a Republican, Democrat or Independent; a progressive, liberal, moderate or conservative, we are all equally vulnerable to being infected with, and even dying from, the Coronavirus. COVID-19 is our common enemy. Nevertheless, instead of coming together to combat this very dangerous disease, Americans are as divided as ever. In this time of national crisis, why can’t we put our political differences aside and unite in our efforts to defeat the Coronavirus?

In the 1930s, our country faced a different, yet very threatening challenge, the Great Depression. Then Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt sought to calm the public suffering from the extreme anxieties of the Depression by proclaiming “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” During his presidency FDR delivered “fireside chats” in an attempt to reassure the entire country that he was working to lift all Americans out of their economic misery.

Years later our country suffered a terrorist attack on 9/11 2001. Then Republican President George W. Bush rallied the American people together to respond to this horrific assault. He called on all Americans to “unite in our resolve for justice and peace” and jointly “go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.” (See https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/gwbush911addresstothenation.htm.)

In times of national catastrophe, presidents of both parties have risen above partisanship and worked to unify our country. That is what real leadership demands. That is what American presidents are supposed to do. Unfortunately, President Trump doesn’t seem to know the meaning of true leadership. Instead, Trump has continued to ramp up the partisan divide.

Why does Trump belittle Democratic governors like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee who are working hard to contain the virus, while he praises Republican governors like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who allowed virus-spreading beaches to remain open? Even worse than his degrading remarks, Trump provides critical supplies to Florida while withholding them from Michigan, though he later relented and did send needed equipment to the state. (See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/trump-whitmer-michigan-desantis-florida-coronavirus-094500724.html.)

Does Trump really believe it’s right to punish millions of people of both parties in these states because he favors a Republican governor and dislikes a Democratic governor? Does he even think about the suffering of people in these states who are not getting enough essential medical supplies because of his bickering with their governors?

Fortunately, all Republicans are not playing partisan politics with the deadly Coronavirus. Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell, a Republican, cares more about the people of his state than which party controls the statehouse. While commending Gov. Whitmer’s work to contain the virus, he raised concerns about Trump’s political attack on the governor with the administration directly. Mitchell correctly noted, “These are times when the American people look for leaders. Leaders don’t whine. Leaders don’t blame.” (See https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-allies-warn-against-feud-040927785.html.)

Rather than partisan politics which weakens our ability to reduce the spread of COVID-19, what we urgently need now is unity. Many hard-hit, democratically controlled metropolitan areas are taking aggressive measures to limit economic and social activity while some red states and rural counties are resisting calls for more stringent action to curb the virus. Presidential leadership could eliminate this discord and create a national policy that unites the country against this common enemy. While some areas are more affected than others, the Coronavirus continues to grow, and every state and county will eventually be impacted by what others do or fail to do. (See https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/31/politics/red-states-blue-cities-coronavirus/index.html.)

So right now, we all need to put partisanship aside. Call your local, state and federal officials today and urge them to work together for the good of all Americans.

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

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