This week, Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address was countered by a rebuttal from the Democrats in the form of Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, who made an eloquent and passionate speech, made more symbolic coming from the scion of a family that is Democratic royalty. Its contents and underlying principles are those that most Americans I know would identify with and support. And that probably goals for half of the country, especially those on the coasts.
But I believe that, because it is so transparently partisan, that it compounds the political mess currently dominating America. I have no time for Trump, all the self-serving republicans who support him in Congress. But his”Base” is a significant chunk of the population from surging Arizona to rust-belt Michigan like a rash. However shortsighted and mitigated we might consider them, they think Trump speaks for them and is the best thing since sliced bread; he is an iconoclast; he speaks his mind; he is a living example of the American dream; he is a celebrity, exuding a kind of charisma and is seen by rust belt America as a kind of saviour, especially as he claims to take on in the media and beltway establishments.
So, when he delivers a State of the Union Address that is uncharacteristically conciliatory, this is not the time doe his opponents to dig Democratic trenches deeper and lob more handwringing liberal grenades in his direction. In the 20th century, America’s great strength was too weld amazing diversity together into a common American dream in which all believed. In the 21st Century, the institutionalised two party system has fractured society into haves and have-nots. As the latter has grown, the temptation to seek out the kind of the simplistic (but delusional) that Trump peddles has grown. Adhererents to such delusions are deaf to those trying to burst their bubble, as Kennedy’s speech is trying to do.
With both camps so far apart, spitting invactive with a blinkered partisanship that makes the Hatfields and McCoys seem like reasonable people, there is scant hope of avoiding the Mexican stand-off, such as shut down the government or stymied most of Trump’s executive orders. The last time America was this divided was during the Civil War. I would have hoped someone of Kennedys standing and genealogies could realise this and start to find common ground to heall this deepening rift that is doing the country—and the world—no good whatsoever. Because this is no” faraway country, of which we know little”. America’s future affects us all so we must all engage an international awareness that Joe’s great uncle demonstrated so powerfully half a century ago.
To quote another German phrase: “Der Weg nach Hölle ist mit guten Vorsätze gepflastert” (The road to Hell is paved with good intentions).