US ex-presidents unite after divisive week

Allies: Carter, Bush Snr, Bush Jnr, Clinton and Obama won eight presidential elections. © Getty

Can America ever be united again? At a time when everything from the national anthem to the military to hurricanes becomes politicised, many fear this age of partisanship will never end.

On Saturday the five living former US presidents with a combined age of 384 met in Texas. They gathered for a concert in aid of victims of the hurricanes that have ravaged the country this year.

The sight of three Democrats and two Republicans together was a powerful symbol of American unity. All held their hands to their hearts as they sang the national anthem.

Last week President Trump made a phone call to the widow of a fallen soldier. According to a Democratic congresswoman, Trump said the soldier “knew what he signed up for”, which Trump angrily disputed.

Brian Flood of Fox News has accused the Democrats of “weaponising” military families.

Once, the military was a uniting force for Americans. But events in recent months have eroded that sense.

Two more symbols all Americans once took pride in are Hollywood and the national anthem. Now the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #TakeAKnee protest have divided Americans. Even sport cannot escape politics.

Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster in Politico have come up with the term “negative partisanship” to explain this atmosphere, likening American politics to a sports rivalry.

Liberals and conservatives blame each other for the divide. But can this ever end?

Polar opposites

Many are pessimistic. America seems to have lost its sense of purpose and togetherness that defined the decades in which it became a superpower. The two Americas have stopped talking to each other across the social and political divides. The age of social media makes opinion everything.

“Things are not as bad as they seem,” reply others. America has experienced civil war, while during the supposedly happy era of the 1950s millions of African-Americans were second-class citizens. In person, Americans remain respectful to one another. These bonds will win.

You Decide

  1. When Trump leaves office, will America become less polarised politically?

Activities

  1. Talk to someone you disagree with politically, and find three things you agree on.

Some People Say...

“America should split into two different countries.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
America is divided, and the divide is largely cultural. Since the 1980s, supporters of both major parties have grown to dislike the opposing party and its elected leaders more than they like their own party and its elected leaders.
What do we not know?
Whether anything can be done. Most people, whether they support him or not, believe Trump has exacerbated this divide.

Word Watch

A combined age of 384
Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush are 93, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are 71 and Barack Obama is 56.
Events
Such as Trump's ban on transgender troops.
Harvey Weinstein scandal
Weinstein is a liberal who helped fund Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Conservatives have attacked the hypocrisy of a leading Hollywood figure who preached gender equality but is now exposed as a serial abuser.
#TakeAKnee
Trump has suggested that players who kneel during the pre-game national anthem should be sacked.

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